Tag Archives: Historical Fiction

Heart of a Samurai: based on the true story of Nakahama Manjiro

Heart of a Samurai: based on the true story of Nakahama Manjiro

Heart of a Samurai

Manjiro is only 14 years old when he takes a job on a Japanese fishing boat to help support his family. A big storm shipwrecks the fisherman on a deserted island for several months. When they are finally rescued by an American whaling boat they are almost starved to death.

The year is 1841 and as strange as this may seem to us, the country of Japan had a really isolationish view of the world back then. That means that they just wanted to be left alone. They did not want any influences from outside their own country. What this means for Manjiro and the other fisherman is that they cannot return to Japan even though the American whaling ship can easily take them there. If the men return to Japan they could be put in jail…or killed. I know, it sounds really odd to us now but that’s the way it was back then.

So, the American ship takes the fishermen to Hawaii instead. The ship’s captain takes Manjiro under his wing and offers to take him on to America as his adopted son. Manjiro accepts this offer and becomes what is thought to be the first Japanese person to set foot in America. I love this part of the book because it is so different. This Japanese boy goes to school and learns to run a farm in 1840s America.

After Manjiro finishes his education and after he sails around the world, Manjiro decides to return to Japan 1. because he wants to see his mother and 2. because he wants to show that the outside world is not dangerous. He does this even though he knows he might be killed. What happens next in his life sounds like something made up in a movie…or a book…but this times it’s TRUE. Manjiro was a real person and the unbelievable things in this books really did happen. Manjiro left Japan as a poor boy with no future. He returns and Japan is never the same again. Author: Margi Preus Newbery Honor Book 2010

Shipwrecked and Manjiro are both biographies about the real Manjiro – yes, he was real. The discipline, secrecy and skill of samurai is very mysterious – and interesting. The next two are about samurai training. If you liked the survival part of Manjiro’s story try the next four – all about survival at sea.
Shipwrecked Manjiro Young Samurai The Way of the Sword The Japanese Samurai
Escape by Sea Shen of the Sea The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle Robinson Crusoe
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A Long Walk to Water

A Long Walk to Water

A Long Walk to Water

Part of this story is about a boy named Salva. He lives in Sudan, a country in Africa, during a Civil War that happened there in 1985. The other part of this story is about a girl namy Nya and takes place in Sudan right now.

When we say “The Civil War” here in America we are referring to our own Civil War that happened 150 years ago. The Civil War in Sudan was only 25 years ago. During the War in Sudan many people were killed, children were made orphans and families were separated. In order to get to safety many people WALKED to Ethiopia or Kenya.

When you are reading Salva’s part of the story you hear about how he slept on the ground at night and could hear lions hunting around him:

Marial was gone – vanished into the night. He would never have wandered away from the group on his own. His disappearance could mean only one thing. Lion. (page 40)

Salva even has to cross a river infested with crocodiles. Some of the people do not make it across the river. On the other side of the river is a desert…which the people also have to walk across. Can you even imagine surving a journey like that? I can’t.

Nya’s part of the story is about how she walks twice a day, EVERY DAY to a pond to get water. Nya carries the water in a plastic jug and balances it on her head to walk home. That’s what she does every single day; once in the morning and once in the afternoon. The pond is so far away from her home that she has no time to do anything else. No school. No playing. Just walking – carrying water to keep her family alive.

A Long Walk to Water shows you how Salva’s story and Nya’s story are related even though they take place 25 years apart.

There are parts of the book that are hard to read and very, very sad. Some parts are scary. In the end, though, this is a book about really good things. It is about people looking after each other – even if they are stangers to begin with. It is about trying hard and doing your part and it is about hoping for something better.

The really great thing is that A Long Walk to Water is based on a real boy named Salva – you can see his picture with the author on the book jacket or in the video below. (He’s grown up now.) At the end of the book there is a letter to you from Salva that I think you’ll like to read. The best thing he says is, “Stay calm when things are hard or not going right with you. You will get thorugh it when you persevere instead of quitting.” (page 117) Those are pretty powerful words when you realize they come from a kid who survived a situation much, much more difficult than anything we will probably ever face.

  • Amazon Look Inside A Long Walk to Waterwater-for-sudan-logo
  • Linda Sue Park’s Official Website
  • Linda Sue Park’s Blog
  • Watch the PBS Need to Know Episode “The Lost Boy of Sudan” – it’s about Salva himself.
  • Water for Sudan – Salva’s own organization that drills wells to provide water to people Southern Sudan.

Here are some more books about people like Salva who decide to DO something:
Wengari's Trees of Peace Three Cups of Tea Do Something Ryan and Jimmy and the Well in Africa That Brought Them Together
Alex and the Amazing Lemonade Stand A Gift from Childhood Making Change The Doggy Dung Disaster
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ForgeForge continues the story of Curzon and Isabel, two kids during the US Revolution who made a daring escape from slavery together in Chains. Now they are runaways and have to figure out how they are going to keep hidden as well as find food & shelter with a war raging and winter coming.

When they can’t agree on their next move, Isabel takes off on her own leaving Curzon to take his future into his own hands…and worry about Isabel and if she could possibly survive on her own.

To blend in, Curzon joins a band of soldiers at Valley Forge, passing himself off as a freed slave. He’s safe, for now, but also hungry and slowly freezing to death like all the other soldiers at Valley Forge. A gripping story of survival, friendship, trust…and love…maybe. I guess we’ll have to wait for book #3, Ashes, to find out! Author: Laurie Halse Anderson

More great books about the US Revolution:
Chains Johnny Tremain The Fighting Ground George vs. George
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Crispin: The End of Time

Crispin: The End of Time

Crispin The End of Time

Crispin The End of Time finishes the trilogy that began with #1 Crispin The Cross of Lead and #2: Crispin at the Edge of the World. Crispin is a peasant orphan in 14th Century France – that would be in the time of castles and knights. In his previous adventures Crispin made a family for himself with his friend Troth and Bear, the man who looks after them. At the beginning of this book, Bear has died, which leaves Crispin and Troth orphaned again; alone and hungry with no place to call home. Crispin and Troth are afraid. The only thing they can think to do is follow Bear’s plan to get to Iceland, even though they have no idea where Iceland is or what they will do when they get there.

Their journey is full of danger and suspense. I actually wanted to cry a couple times, especially when Crispin and Troth choose to go their seperate ways and when Crispin befriends a mis-treated servent boy named Owen when they are both held captive by a band of murderous thieves. There are a couple scenes when Owen curls up in a ball and cries, too frightened and too tired to even begin to think about how he could save himself. It’s hard to imagine a small child in that situation. The most satisfying part of this story is the relationship Crispin and Owen build that helps them outsmart and overcome their captors. Author: Avi

#1: Crispin: Cross of Lead on CD or Downloadable ebook
#2: Crispin: at the Edge of the World on CD or Downloadable ebook
#3: Crispin: End of Time on CD

More books about kids on their own in Medieval times:
Alchemy and Meggy Swann The Puppeteer's Apprentice The Midwife's Apprentice Mathilda Bone
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In 1962 something happened in the world that was pretty scary, something we now call The Cuban Missile Crisis. The crisis happened when the Soviet Union (USSR) started to secretly build missile launching sites in Cuba. US spy planes found out about this. President Kennedy went on television and announced a naval blockade around Cuba to keep the missiles from getting delivered to the sites in Cuba.  He also said that if the USSR launched one of the missiles, the US would fire back, “if you bomb us, we’ll bomb you.” The problem was that the missiles were nuclear missiles…so if anybody bombed anybody, lots and lots of people would die. Luckily, the ships carrying the missiles turned around before they got to Cuba and neither side launched any missiles.

For about two weeks, though, nobody really knew how the standoff would turn out. People, even the grown-ups, were pretty scared. Countdown is the story of 11 year-old Franny and what it was like for her to live through this time, because even without the threat of missiles, a kid’s life can be tough sometimes. Franny feels ignored and left out — her teacher keeps skipping her (even though she’s a good reader), her best friends doesn’t seem to want to hang out with her anymore, her sister is being secretive and distant, her mom is short-tempered and her dad is gone – flying an airplane for the President, which is his job. Add on top of that Franny’s Uncle wants to build a bomb shelter in her backyard and she has to do drills at school so that she knows what to do if a missile is coming – Franny is about over the edge!

I loved Franny and watching her figure out how to get past the troubles in her life. ..how to understand that her teacher might not be ignoring her on purpose, how to understand that her best friend might have other things to think about besides her & how to understand that her mom is a person too that has feelings, even fear, that makes her act weird sometimes! Franny finds out that any crisis, not just the missile crisis, can turn out in surprising ways that might not be all that bad. Author: Deborah Wiles

If you like Franny and reading about the 1960s, a time that was full of lot of new and sometimes scary things like: the missile crisis, men in space, the fight or civil rights, rock music & more, try one of these:
This Means War Criss Cross Gemini Summer The Watson's Go to Birmingham
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