Samurai Shortstop
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Samurai Shortstop

3.91 of 5 stars 3.91  ·  rating details  ·  433 ratings  ·  86 reviews
Tokyo, 1890. Toyo is caught up in the competitive world of boarding school, and must prove himself to make the team in a new sport called besuboru. But he grieves for his uncle, a samurai who sacrificed himself for his beliefs, at a time when most of Japan is eager to shed ancient traditions. It?s only when his father decides to teach him the way of the samurai that Toyo g...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published February 14th 2008 by Speak (first published May 18th 2006)
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Laura
This is another book I chose by its cover. Our school had just received a shipment of new books and teachers were allowed to pick through the collections to add to their libraries. I liked the cover and I've been intrigued by Japanese historical fiction since reading "Memoirs of a Geisha" so I took the book home to read over the weekend.

I finished it in one evening. I couldn't put it down.

It's gory. It's detailed. I wish it weren't based on true stories but it is and, let me tell you, life in Ja...more
David Rustyfox
I picked this book up for summer reading, and I was skeptical about it, but it looked interesting none the less. I picked it up one day and started reading the first 11 pages, and that had to be the best opening to a book ever. Hands down. It is also the only sports book I liked that I read, which is surprising because I don't like the genre to begin with. I recommend this to anyone who likes sports books or a vast helping of Japanese culture
Jamie
A surprisingly readable historical fiction sports book. Well-researched, about late 19th century Japan, where the samurai way has just ended and baseball really does exist. The relations between the boys seems timeless, as does the baseball action.
Heather
Toyo is attending one of the most prestigious high schools in Japan. He loves playing shortstop and wishes to be on the school's besoboro team.

Toyo has a lot going on in his personal life. His family have always been samurai but now Japan is moving into the modern culture. Toyo's uncle committed suicide because of the changes retain tradition. His dad is thoroughly old school making it difficult for father and son to connect.

Toyo must find a way to understand how baseball, samurai, and all the...more
Pam
After reading this book I'm not sure if the book is really about baseball in Japan or about the breath-taking change from its middle ages to its modern era that occurred overnight. Set in Tokyo, this story is about a samurai's son and nephew coming to grips with being a commoner as he starts at the elite school, Ichiko. As the book opens Toyo also has to make sense of the suicide of his beloved and honorable uncle that he witnesses. Through baseball and his study of bushido, Toyo resolves how to...more
Amy
I had been attracted to the cover of this book for a long time when I finally grabbed it during "historical fiction" month at my school. It was a much better book than I had expected! The story begins with the seppuku (suicide) of Toyo's uncle. Toyo lives in "new" Japan but comes from a history of samurai, which has been outlawed in turn-of-the-century Japan. When Toyo struggles to understand the reasons behind his uncle's suicide and the preparations for his dad's seppuku, his dad decides to te...more
Sps
This is a book I can definitely see myself recommending, since the pace, setting, plot, and mood of the book have tremendous teen/tween appeal.

Toyo, the fifteen-year-old son of a samurai, enters Japan's elite Ichiko academy, where he must balance 'besuboro' (baseball) practice with academics as well as training in the way of the samurai. Then there are the seniors, who come in the middle of the night to the new students' rooms to bloodily initiate them.

Actually, most school events, and a large...more
Claire
Samurai Shortstop has been in my to-read pile for years. I just happened on the audio and listened to it. It is stellar.

Set at the cusp between old, isolated Samurai dominated Japan and Commodore Perry's seeming 'invasion' of Japan bringing western inventions and values with him.

The book starts with a graphic description of Toyo's Uncle Kogi's seppuku assisted by young Toyo and his father. The book continues with equally graphic descriptions of intense bullying at the boarding school Toyo atte...more
Ari
The only thing that really bothered me about this novel were all the mentions of peeing. I mean really? I know it's a book about guys, but does it need to be mentioned in every other chapter (they "make rain"). The sexism in the novel bothered me, but it can be overlooked since the author was being authentic to the time period. Life at Ichiko is a little bit like Lord of the Flies because the boys govern themselves; they dispense punishments, cook, etc. The idea is that Ichiko is training future...more
Gavin Reed
Set in Japan, this is a story of Toyo Shimada he is starting the first day of his new boarding schools in Japan. It is a school that turns kids to the future of Japan.All while he is mourning over the recent seppuku of his Uncle Koji. Not only did he have to witness it, but he had to assist with certain parts. If that wasn’t enough, he fears that he father is going to do the same.

Sotaro was a samurai, the same as his brother Koji. But in Japan, the new Emperor has declared that there are no more...more
Gloria
I'm going to hold off on my review until the FMS Reading Challenge is over.... But I thought it was quite good, and as someone who spent alot of her undergraduate years studying the transition from the Tokugawa to the Meiji Restoration period.... I was impressed.

Gratz had done what I think is a masterful introduction to a complex time period, with all the conflicting values and pressures that a young adult would feel, all seen through the lens of "besubaru"; his impetus for writing was an old 19...more
Jaakko Kuoppamaki
Samurai Shortstop
By: Alan Gratz
number of pages: 280

This book takes place in Tokyo, Japan in the year 1890.

This book is about a boy called Toyo who goes to a new school called Ichiko. Recently, his uncle Koji committed Seppuku, an honorable suicide. He did this because the emperor of Japan told him to, because he didn’t give up his Samurai swords even after the emperor said the time of Samurai is over. Toyo's father also sent a request to commit Seppuku, but was denied. Toyo now fears his fat...more
Brad Larson
Samurai shortstop is a good book. it pulls you in and keeps you there. Readers, you will get engrossed by the young samurai have to find his own way in life and making his "besuboru", or baseball, team one of the best.
In 1890 the emperor of Japan says everyone is neither a samurai nor peasant he/she is a commoner. But some don’t like this, like Toyo's uncle Koji. In fact Koji doesn't like it so much he commits seppuku. Seppuku is where a samurai kills himself for honor.
Toyo get accepted to fir...more
Charlene Olson odu
I picked this book for two reasons: baseball and Japan - baseball is my favorite sport, and I lived in Japan for 3 ½ years. Shortstop Samurai tells the story of Toyo Shimada, a young man who loves besuboru (baseball) while also discussing the transition of Japan from a feudal society to a modern one. The story also includes the usual struggles between parent and child. The setting is Tokyo, Japan, in 1890s, and the story opens with Toyo and his father attending the seppuku (ritual suicide) of Ko...more
Mr.G
Samurai Shortstop begins with a young Japanese kid witnessing his uncle's ritual suicide. His father, have just decapitated his brother turns to the son and says, "You'll be doing this for me soon.
Set in Japan in the 1880's, the novel follows the young boy as he is tutored in bushido in preparation for his role in his father's imminent seppuku. The boy immediately applies his samurai training toward his real passion: baseball.
At this point in Japanese history, the culture is in the period of sei...more
Joe
This book has several aspects that would appeal to teens. For one, there is hazing. Going to a new school is never easy, so it would be even more appealing to students who have gone through similar situations. To go with this, there is the historical aspect of the book. From reading about samurai to learning about seppuku, the reader learns about cultural traditions. Finally, there is the aspect of baseball, while baseball fans may be more drawn to the book, those who don't follow baseball shoul...more
Elizabeth Plav
Fantastic story about a boy growing up in Meiji Era Japan. The Meiji Era was on fraught with social change, as Japan opened its doors to the West -- and suddenly old Japan and new Japan collide. The story opens up with Toyo's uncle, by order of the Emperor, must commit sepiku (the samurai form of suicide). Toyo is confused obviously affected by this -- especially when his dad says that he (his dad) will be next.

As he starts his first year at an elite high school, we can see the changes of Japan...more
Sara
I picked this up for Theo during a quick run through the library - how great a book about 2 of his very favorite things. Happily, I gave it a quick preview before handing it off. While I couldn't put it down for the rest of the afternoon, the book would have been too much for his 8 year old self. The main character is 16 years old, and I'm guessing this is a book for about that age range.

The story captivated me. Placed in Japan in the late 1800s, just as Western influence was taking hold, the bo...more
Bryan Stevenson
I wasn't sure what to expect when I picked up this book. I met Alan Gratz at my son Jaron's middle school when he came to talk with them last year. Jaron thoroughly enjoyed the book, and enjoyed hearing what Alan had to say about writing and researching. I'm not up on my samurai knowledge, but the baseball side of things was well written and enjoyable. It was neat to learn more about the historical context surrounding turn of the century Japan, and Alan mixed in some actual events into the story...more
Wanda
Interesting combination of baseball and the ancient Japanese code of Bushido. This book takes place at the end of the 19th century at a Japanese Boarding School for boys. This was a time in Japanese history where the government under the leadership of the emperor was attempting to westernize Japan to facilitate its ability to compete in a world economic market. The samurais had been outlawed but the culture was still firmly in place. This is reflected in the boarding school where almost all of t...more
Mary
Toyo goes to an elite boarding school in Japan in 1890, where most of the students are sons of samurai. Toyo is the son and nephew of samurai, and his uncle committed seppuko the year before Toyo came to this school. His father was less of a warrior than his uncle; he writes editorials for a Japanese newspaper decrying the new order that caused samurai to give up their swords and tried to create a more egalitarian society. Toyo's passion is baseball (besu boru) but his father has no use for the...more
Emily
Ridiculous title, but an intriguing book. It deftly explores the evolution of Japanese culture just before the advent of the 20th century. It unflinchingly examines some of the darker aspects of samurai culture while at the same time lauding its more admirable virtues and traditions. I enjoyed this book much more than I thought I would.
Carol Littlejohn
This debut book by a gifted author could be a great father-son book club read because the theme is how a boy becomes a man. Can a father pass on the knowledge of being a man? Toyo Shimada, 15, is growing up in Tokyo in the 1890’s when the emperor has outlawed the samurai tradition of his ancestors. The opening begins with Toyo’s uncle performing suppuku, a ritual involving disembowelment and decapitation. Graphic violence continues throughout the book, including brutal hazing inflicted on studen...more
~Aire~
Mar 10, 2008 ~Aire~ rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who is interested in baseball, or just looking for an interesting read
This book shows how difficult it may have been for the old ways of Japan to change. From Samurai to commoners, many believed the old ways forgotten while others simply stuck to old prejudices. Toyo Shimada is shortstop on his school's Besuboru team, what we would call baseball. Even though it is a sport brought to Japan by the gaijin, Americans, Toyo finds that the game is more in depth with the samurai techniques then his father believes. As his father starts teaching him private lessons on the...more
Jeane
I read this book for my book group this month, and though everyone seemed to enjoy it, I did not. I think that I would have appreciated this book much more if I a.) knew anything at all about baseball, but I don't, and b.) gave a rat's ass about baseball, which I don't. On the other hand I do like the look into the world of Japan during the transition from feudal to modern era Japan. I also liked the aspects of bushido, and knowing more about it. But then there was the baseball which just ruined...more
Andrew R
Samurai Shortstop is a great read for any sports fan.
It is a book about a young boy Toyo, who witnesses the suicide of his uncle, sentenced by the emperor. Toyo understands that his uncle died an honorable samurai death, but he also misses his uncle. Toyo does not like the old ways that his father follows. He fears that the his ways will take his father from him, just like his uncle.

Toyo goes to a school made especially to teach the future leaders of Japan. At the school, Toyo finds that unless...more
Wendy
Take a deep breath before you start this book - the first chapter vividly describes a man committing seppuku. I actually had to put the book down and then restart it a few days later.

But please don't let a grim first chapter deter you from reading the book. It's an absolutely amazing blend of historical and sports fiction. This book captures Japan at a major cultural crossroads, when the emperor has declared the end of the samurai and all people are equal commoners. The main character, Toyo, mus...more
Ben Jensen
In samurai shortstop you follow the life of a young boy named Toyo Shimada in Japan 1890's the Meiji emperor has just order his uncle to commit seppuku an ancient samurai ritual of suicide. As Toyo struggles with his experience with his uncles death along with his fathers desire to commit seppuku as well he discovers the way of the warrior or bushido. As he learns bushido he incorporates it into baseball.

I really enjoyed this book. Not only because I lived in Japan for two years but because Gra...more
Jonathan
"A distinct pleasure of Samurai Shortstop is the clarity of its prose and the accuracy of its setting. Gratz has done his homework, capturing the political and social concerns of the times, depicting Japanese samurai warrior conduct (bushido), and describing the harsh realities of Japanese boarding school life of the period. Moreover, Gratz incorporates occasional historical events and figures into the narrative, thereby lending the story further verisimilitude. The resulting bildungsroman, whil...more
Christina
In 1890 Japan, Toyo attends an elite boys' boarding school, where he learns how to play the new sport of baseball that was brought over by Europeans. He is also taking "bushido" or samurai lessons from his father, and both bushido and baseball have a lot in common, though his father refuses to accept the newfangled sport. The book is set during the time when the old ways of Japan, the samurai code, are being set aside for new modern things like streetcars and baseball, and Toyo's father refuses...more
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Alan Gratz was born and raised in Knoxville, TN, home of the 1982 World's Fair. After a carefree but humid childhood, Alan attended the University of Tennessee, where he earned a College Scholars degree with a specialization in creative writing, and later, a Master's degree in English education.
In addition to writing plays, magazine articles, and a few episodes of A&E's City Confidential, Alan...more
More about Alan Gratz...
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