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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Stranded on a deserted island, rescued by mortal enemies, adopted into a new culture -- all this and whales too!

Preus, Margi  (2010) Heart of a Samurai  New York:  Amulet.

Manjiro is 14.  He hand his friends go fishing, get caught in a current and find themselves marooned on a deserted island.  Even if they could return to Japan, they would not be allowed to enter the country, since foreigners and returning citizens alike are not allowed to penetrate the closed borders of the county.
     When they are rescued by a American whaling vessel, Manjiro's friends consider themselves prisoners, but Manjiro begins learning the strange language of the Americans.  He soon is training to do a job on board and when they put in to port almost ten years later, the captain presents Manjiro with a difficult choice of which culture he wishes to live in.  Manjiro's choice and what comes afterward, make for a  fascinating narrative. 
     This book reads like a novel, but at the very end you learn it is closely based on a true story.  I think it would make a very good read aloud for fifth or sixth grade.  It deals with issues of prejudice very well.  It has a little bit of a pull-yourself -up-by-your-own-bootstraps vibe to it, but for a child reader, that might be a nice message. Nothing really offensive here -- except maybe accurate descriptions of 19th century whaling practices.  Strong fourth grade readers would like this one, and I think it would be interesting for readers through high school.  This book won a Newbery Honor .  You should probably get yourself a copy.

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