Heart of a Samurai

 /   /  By Emma Birches
Stone Soup Magazine
November 2017

By Margi Preus, Reviewed by William Cui

Heart of a Samurai, by Margi Preus
Abrams/Amulet: New York, 2010; $12.45

What would you do if you were stranded on an island with your friends and you were rescued by people you know as barbarians? Now you have to live with them. You must feel hopeless, dreadful, desperate. Step right into the shoes of Manjiro, a Japanese child isolated from the outside world. On his island, everyone calls Americans barbarians! And Americans were the ones that rescued him. Can you imagine that? And even worse, he can’t go back to his home in Japan. The book Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus teaches people that just because everything is new, that doesn’t mean they are in a barbaric or hopeless situation; people need to adapt.

This book is based on a true story and is set during 1841, when whaling was an important part of the American economy. Manjiro, a Japanese child living on a remote Japanese island, finds himself stranded on another island after a storm during his fishing duty. He and his four friends were found by an American whaling boat and brought to the United States because the Japanese did not let anyone enter their borders regardless if they were Japanese or not.

As I was reading this book, I thought back to when I was in second grade. I moved from California to Massachusetts. The entire situation for me seemed unfamiliar. I didn’t know who anybody was; I had no idea where I was and Massachusetts seemed like an alien place to me. It was like the people of California were no longer with me and I had a whole new unfamiliar life. No one knew me; I knew no one. This place to me was foreign, alien, new, strange, uncharted. But, my fear’s grip loosened when I slowly started to get used to the environment. Everything started to work out, bit by bit. Even though the scale of our relocations are different, I could connect a lot to how Manjiro felt when he was in America. But as Manjiro got used to America, he made it his home–just how I made Massachusetts my home.

The author wrote this book mainly because Manjiro was the first Japanese citizen to learn English and go to America. During that time period, nobody knew what Japan was like and the Japanese didn’t know what the outside world was like. Until Manjiro. The world had a problem with connection and unity and Manjiro fixed the problem without even knowing it. That happened because he adapted to the environment unlike his friends who gave up and ran off without trying and persevering.

After reading this, I could connect to Manjiro so much because of what I’ve been through. It made me rethink myself and capture memories of when I just moved here. This book portrayed adapting to new circumstances powerfully.

William Cui Heart of a Samurai

William Cui, 11
Lexington, MA

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