Heart of a Samurai
2010; Amulet Books; ISBN 978-0-8109-8981-8 (hardcover)
Summary: Manjiro and his companions are shipwrecked on a tiny, deserted island. They don't have much hope for rescue--because even if they are saved, they won't be able to return home to Japan due to their country's isolationist policies. But then, they are saved, by an American whaling ship. Fourteen-year-old Manjiro is very intrigued by these "barbarians", who have such a different approach to life than the Japanese. Slowly, he becomes part of the crew, even the adopted son of the captain. Manjiro, renamed John Mung, will be the first Japanese to visit America, will serve on other whaling vessels, and will discover many new opportunities. But will he ever be able to return to Japan and see his family?
Prejudice is a social ill that has plagued many societies. Often it's based on a fear of an unknown, like coming face-to-face with foreign devils or being the only Japanese boy in a New England town. Based on a true story, Heart of a Samurai is an engaging read for middle school readers. Manjiro's innate curiosity, which is seen as rude and unseemly by other Japanese, is seen as a positive trait by Captain Whitfield and other Americans. And it's through Manjiro's curiosity and intelligence that he's able to achieve so much. Pass this book to readers who have finished Laurence Yep's Golden Mountain Chronicles and are looking for more stories about Asians in America.