Monday, August 8, 2011

Marvelous Middle Grade (Minnesota) Monday: Heart of a Samurai

Heart of a Samurai received a Newbery Honor in 2010 when Margie Prues revealed, in historical fiction style, the story of Manjiro, a Japanese teenager and sailor who helped changed the world. I had the honor of hearing Ms. Preus speak at a Minneapolis bookstore several months ago, and she shared how Manjiro was so genuinely 'nice' while recording his experiences in journals, that she had to invent a human enemy for him. Enhancing this story are sketches drawn by Manjiro himself. Readers are drawn into a world of East meets West, at the time Japan was closed to outsiders.

Premise: Fourteen-year old Manjiro and his fellow sailors are stranded at sea in a storm off Japan's coast in 1841. If they stray too far, Japan won't allow them to return to their homes and families. On a deserted island, the crew waits. An American ship takes them aboard, and Manjiro is ready to learn about whaling, as well as Americans and other people around the world. But as he travels the high seas over the next ten years, one question burns in his mind: Will he ever be able to go home again?

What keeps readers reading: a fascinating blend of history mixed with the humble and genuine character of Manjiro. Margie Prues stitches journeys around the world, people from all corners of the globe - good ones, bad ones, and ugly ones - and adventures on ships and on land, and shows how unselfishness and true inner beauty can win the hearts and minds of people everywhere. Heart of a Samurai, definitely an upper middle grade reading level, teaches about a significant moment in world history, but even more than that, it teaches readers about being a better person.

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Happy middle grade reading! 

8 comments:

  1. "...how unselfishness and true inner beauty can win the hearts and minds of people everywhere." Oh I loved that! This book sounds just great.Thnx Barbara.

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  2. Waaa! You read this book? I've been having mixed feelings about it but after reading this I think I'm going to give it a try.
    Right up on my TBR pile it goes.
    Thanks for this feature.

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  3. Thank you, Tracey! Let me know if you read the book and what you think of it.

    Akoss, yes, for sure, give it a try. Glad I shifted it up your pile. =)

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  4. Oh, I've always wanted to read this. Guess I'll have to move it up too. Great review, Barbara. Thanks.

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  5. Wow, this sounds incredible! I hadn't heard of it before, so thank you so much! The premise sounds like a really interesting one to see tackled in a MG context, even if it were purely fictional -- and as it's not, wow.

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  6. Joanne! So great to have you back. Yes, move it up your list along with Akoss.

    Amie, as I stated, this is definitely upper MG (in fact it was shelved in YA in my library, but I've seen it in the kid's section at others. But...since it received a Newbery Honor, it fits MG criteria also. It's one of those 'inbetweeners.' But magnificent wherever it fits.

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  7. I've seen this book around. Now I'll have to read it!

    Thanks for the great review, Barbara. You have been an awesome supporter of Minnesotan writers.

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  8. Yay! Yes, Michael, go read it! And it was awesome to meet Margi Preuss! She's kind, generous, and funny. She has a new picture book out (I hesitate to call it that because it seems so much deeper than that label) that teaches about the oldest living trees in the world. Fascinating!

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