Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Heart of a Samurai” as Want to Read:
Heart of a Samurai
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Heart of a Samurai

3.87  ·  Rating Details ·  4,828 Ratings  ·  701 Reviews
A 2011 Newbery Honor Book

In 1841, a Japanese fishing vessel sinks. Its crew is forced to swim to a small, unknown island, where they are rescued by a passing American ship. Japan’s borders remain closed to all Western nations, so the crew sets off to America, learning English on the way.

Manjiro, a fourteen-year-old boy, is curious and eager to learn everything he can about

Hardcover, 305 pages
Published August 1st 2010 by Harry N. Abrams
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Heart of a Samurai, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

Marco Astorino They were quite surprised because they've never seen Japan on a map so they though it was much bigger than it actually was

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
The Shayne-Train
Apr 07, 2015 The Shayne-Train rated it really liked it
When reviewing books that I read to the little one, I usually take her closing thoughts as the basis for my rating. This time, it was: "I liked that one. A lot. I liked the stuff about whaling. And the stuff about people all being beautiful no matter what color or shape they are."

Now, me, I've always been a sucker for a well-written "fish out of water" story, and that's exactly what this is. A young Japanese fisherman gets shipwrecked in the 1840's and is rescued by an American whaling boat. He
Kara Cardwell
When I first saw the cover of this book I was extremely excited. I was thinking, a book about a Samurai!! I’ve always been intrigued by stories that deal with warriors.

Although Heart of a Samurai didn’t deal with the Samurai aspect as much as I’d hope for, it concentrated on something better. Going after what you want and believing in yourself even when no one else does. Seeing the main character struggle for so long to go after a goal, as well as see the results (whether good or bad) was a huge
Yumi Learner
Feb 08, 2015 Yumi Learner rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
My Fifth Book in English This Year

I just finished reading my fifth book in English this year and it's "Heart of A Samurai". It's a story about John Manjiro who landed in the States as the first Japanese person. It was so interesting for me to read the book because I could learn history both of America and Japan.

Manjiro was born in a poor family as a fisherman's son. He started working for his family since he was 8 years old. He didn't get any chance to go to school. When he was 14 years old, som
Dec 29, 2010 Wendy rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Matthew
Delightful throwback of a book, like something I would have read in the fifties--I mean, if I'd been alive in the fifties, so, like a soft, faded, library-bound hardcover I would have taken out in the eighties, only to see it disappear a couple of years later when everything was modernized.

Not to say that it is too old-fashioned. I think this book is good enough and fast-paced enough to be interesting to modern children. I know kids in my classes would have enjoyed it if they'd been forced to re
Jonathan Peto
Aug 05, 2014 Jonathan Peto rated it liked it
Shelves: ya
This book is based on the life of a historical person, a shipwrecked Japanese fisherman who was adopted by the captain of an American whaling ship in the 1840s. Interesting, right! He eventually returned to Japan with knowledge of the outside world, knowledge of English, and practical knowledge of subjects like navigation.

The author of Heart of a Samurai seemed to face a similar challenge as Pam Munoz Ryan, the author of Riding Freedom: a long, complicated life to dramatize but a minimum amount
Jabiz Raisdana
A solid well-written book that should appeal to any middle school reader. This adventurous historically fictional tale has something for everyone. A nicely paced novel that literally spans the globe. You won't want to put it down.
Loredana Adriana
Poate dacă aș fi citit această carte acum 15, chiar și 10 ani, i-aș fi dat 5 stele cu felicitări. Dar așa, fiindcă sunt ceva mai trecută prin „viața” cărților, nu-i pot da decât 4. Până voi apuca să-i scriu o recenzie de sine stătătoare, trebuie să știți că mi-a plăcut extrem de mult și că o recomand din tot sufletul copiilor și tinerilor care nu au uitat ce înseamnă să visezi și să speri la o lume mai bună. Mi-a plăcut foarte mult și faptul că se bazează pe fapte reale, dar recunosc că și perso ...more
Feb 10, 2015 Mukund rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 03, 2016 NebraskaIcebergs rated it it was amazing
How would you react if someone greeted you with a bow or by avoiding eye contact? Captain Whitfield reacted with impatience, which puzzled Manjiro and his fishermen companions. To them, those actions showed politeness. Other similar examples of miscommunication between cultures abound in Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus, the fictionalized true story of how a Japanese teenage fisherman named Manjiro discovered America in 1841 and how as an adult he persuaded Japan to ease open its boundaries. As ...more
Feb 22, 2011 Ruby rated it it was amazing
Fourteen-year-old Manjiro is full of questions, questions that the elder fishermen he is with get irritated with. Manjiro must learn his place, but Manjiro dreams of one day becoming a samurai. That dream is impossible though, because he comes from a family of fishermen and that's all he ever be.

It's 1841 and Japan is the greatest country in the world, so they say. Stories are told of the horrible beasts that inhabit the West. When Manjiro and his fellow fishermen are swept out to sea in a great
Jul 23, 2016 Jan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’ve been sitting here for almost an hour writing my thoughts about this book, all of which I just erased. None of what I wrote sounded like me. I was trying to write something terribly witty and profound, but that’s not me. So……'s my not witty or profound thoughts.

Heart of a Samurai is historical fiction, or maybe I should say historical/biographical fiction since the author noted that it is based on the life of a real person, real events, and a real time in history. One of the things tha
2011 Newbery Honor

In Heart of a Samurai, Margi Preus tells a fictionalized story of Manjiro, a Japanese teen who, with four fishing companions, became shipwrecked on a rocky island and was rescued by an American whaling ship in the mid-1800's. Save for the addition of a couple of characters and some little details, the story is mostly true. Manjiro journeys to America as the adopted son of Captain Whitfield, learns English, and gains knowledge of American life and seafaring. He goes on to play a
This reminded me a bit of Moby-Dick, which I normally wouldn't count as a good thing in a book. But Margi Preus didn't make me suffer through pages and pages of boring nonfiction information about whales, so I'll forgive her.

This also reminded me quite a lot of Carry On, Mr. Bowditch, which is the Newbery award-winning story of the life of Nathaniel Bowditch who also loved to sail and loved to learn. So I thought it was very fun when he was mentioned in this book in a roundabout way when Manjir
Oct 19, 2011 Elizabeth rated it really liked it
Heart of a Samurai, by Margi Preus,is loosely based on a true story. It is the tale of a Japanese teenager, Manjiro, who in 1841 is shipwrecked while fishing off the coast of Japan. He and his companions are eventually rescued by an American whaling ship. After years at sea, Manjiro, who is renamed John Mung, is adopted by the Captain and begins life in the U.S. There he faces many prejudices, as he is the only Asian. Many of the townspeople want him treated like the African Americans. John goe ...more
This was a really interesting book. It would really be more like 3.5 stars if I could do that here. I originally added it to my to-read list due to its status as a Newbery Honor book, which I always enjoy checking out the new winners. This book is based on the true story of "John Mung" (real name: Manjiro), who was shipwrecked off the coast of Japan when he was a young boy and rescued by American whalers. At the time, the country of Japan was closed to foreigners, and also to natives who had str ...more
Nov 01, 2015 MaryannP rated it liked it
Shelves: historical-fic
This is a historical fiction book that takes place in 1841. One of the main characters, Manjiro is from Japan, but found from American sailors. He was 14 years old at the time when he was taken and corrupted by an American captain. He couldn't go home to Japan because the American ship would be fired upon. Manjiro would then be imprisoned or tortured for being on an American ship. He speaks very little English but decides to go to America with Captain Whitfield. While traveling by sea to America ...more
Mary Ann
Inspired by the real life adventures of Manjiro Nakahama, Margi Preus has written a riveting historical fiction, filled with action, suspense and conflicting cultures. At the age of 14, Manjiro was a young teen living in a small Japanese village when he went to work on a fishing boat. On January night in 1841, his boat was caught in a terrible storm and the crew washed up onto a tiny remote island. After barely surviving on this rocky outcrop, Manjiro and his shipmates were rescued by an America ...more
Iowa City Public Library
Boys in grades 5-8 will especially like this adventure story, inspired by a true adventure on the high seas, about a 14 year-old Japanese boy, Manjiro, who wants to become a samurai. The setting begins in 1841 when he and four friends are rescued on an island off Japan by an American whaling ship. Over the next ten years he travels to many faraway places. He becomes an expert whaler and deals with much prejudice on board ship and on land. Manjiro learns a new language and comes to understand tha ...more
The Reading Countess
Nov 27, 2010 The Reading Countess rated it really liked it
John Mung, known as Manjiro a lifetime ago, finds himself in a strange new world after being rescued by American whaling sailors on a deserted island. Because of Japan's closed border policy, he knows he will not be welcomed back to his homeland and so he attempts to forge a new life for himself with his adoptive father, the captain of the whaling ship who rescued him. Unfortunately, prejudism rears its ugly head, and John finds it difficult to assimilate in his father's hometown of Newport. Whe ...more
Jj Woodfin
Dec 13, 2015 Jj Woodfin rated it it was amazing
Heart of a Samurai
Margi Preus
Manjiro, a young 14 year old fisherman and his handful of fellow shipmates get lost at sea during a tropical storm that leaves them shipwrecked at an island they later call "Bird Island". They survive by themselves for a while until the "John Howland", a whaling vessel takes them aboard.The friends meet Captain Whitfield,and he takes them to Oahu, Hawaii where all the rest of the original crew decide to stay and Manjiro is taken to America. Manjiro attends the Bartle
Jim Erekson
An enjoyable adventure story--the cover calls it a 'real life adventure.' Being aboard a whaling ship in the mid-1800s can't have been half this romantic, but Preus focuses on the personal wonder of being possibly the first Japanese national to live in the USA. All the facts jibe with what I remember from my Japanese History courses umpteen years ago in college. The shift from the Shogunate to the Meiji Restoration opens Japan to foreign contact, and within a few years emissaries from Japan are ...more
Eva Mitnick
Feb 26, 2011 Eva Mitnick rated it liked it
Manjiro is portrayed as an eager and curious teen with a quick mind and an adventurous spirit. It's easy to see why Captain Whitfield liked him so well that he took him into his own home, and how he came to be accepted by so many despite prejudice concerning his race and origins. That prejudice was always present in some form or another, but Manjiro seems to have been able to shrug it off, quoting his mother, "Fall down 7 times; get up 8 times."

I adore a good sea adventure, so I particularly rel
Oct 18, 2011 Margaret rated it really liked it
Newberry Honor 2011

Heart of a Samurai is about fourteen year old Manjiro, who leaves home on a fishing trip with four friends. A storm comes up and they land at a deserted island. They are there for six months when a whaling vessel comes by and rescues them. They go aboard the whaling vessel, the John Howland. The Captain Whitfield befriends Manjiro and he goes with him to Massachusetts. The times are tough for Manjiro. He is believed to be the first Japanese person in the United States. There i
Stacy Countee
Mar 18, 2015 Stacy Countee rated it it was amazing
Shelves: historical-fic
Manjiro turns his dream into a reality after deciding to go out to sea with the Americans at the age of fourteen. It is during this time that he learns how to be a Samurai. At the start of his voyage, he experienced a lot of rebellion, prejudice and opposition. In spite of the obstacles he faced, Manjiro learned English. After a couple of years on sea he moved to America with the captain and his wife. He tried attending school, but became more interested in learning a trade. He wanted to learn a ...more
Jun 23, 2011 Sara rated it really liked it
What I found most enjoyable about this book, were simple additions to the story, such as the pictures, the epilogue, the glossaries, and the historical note. They enriched the story just by being present to make a connection between the present and the past. I remember teaching the Boston Tea Party last December, and I had the students read a diary excerpt from a man who was actually there. The students all raised their eyebrows in disbelief. They spoke about how much more meaning the account ha ...more
Jun 12, 2016 Kkharvey rated it really liked it
Rating: 3.9 stars.
It’s 1841 and Japan is deep into their isolationism. A Japanese fishing boat sinks, only to be rescued by Americans. Fourteen year old Manjiro learns all he can about the new culture and is keen for the adventure this new knowledge will bring him.

I feel into this book by complete accident. I saw it on the shelf in the library, and the attractive cover caught my eye. When I read the description, it was something the likes of which I’d never read before.
I really liked how differe
Jun 28, 2012 Rebecca rated it it was amazing
Shelves: childrens-lit
This is truly an amazing story based on the real life of John Manjiro and how he became the first Japanese man to come to America. Starting with his miraculous rescue at age 14 by a whaling boat to a life and education in America with Captain Whitfield to the gold rush in California--this book covers many aspects of history through the eyes of a Japanese boy and young man. The book is adventurous, fun and very interesting. I think this book would especially appeal to tween/middle school boys and ...more
Rebecca J.
Mar 19, 2012 Rebecca J. rated it really liked it
When a storm at sea takes Manjiro's fishing boat far from the coast of his beloved Japan, he fears he will never see his home again. After months on a desert island, he and his companions are rescued by terrifying barbarians who hunt the oceans for great whales. No foreigners are allowed to land on Japan's shores, so Manjiro has never seen men like these. At first frightened, then curious, Manjiro gradually befriends the captain of the ship, who offers to take him back to America, a land that no ...more
Jun 07, 2011 Michele rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book about a 19th century Japanese fishing boy lost at sea and then rescued by an American whaling ship. This well-written story follows the boy's discovery of both the good and the not-so-good aspects of the wide world. The back-and-forth prejudice by both the Americans and the Japanese show how wrong both groups are about their assumptions. It is easy to identify with Manjiro. The whaling descriptions are a little gory, but it fits in with the way Manjiro is discovering the worl ...more
Jan 25, 2016 Sahir rated it liked it
Absolutely loved it. A beautiful piece of writing, one must read. It is a deep, interesting story of bravery and desire.

The main 2 themes of this book are definitely the theme of "becoming a Samurai" and "Longing to be home". It is late for me so I can't write too long about this book. I've learned that another important theme/idea/lesson is that Racism will always exist. Even 200 years ago in 1846 Americans didn't except the Japanese. Today many of us don't accept people for who they are. We m
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
book club question 2 29 Nov 17, 2012 04:04PM  
  • Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night
  • Breaking Stalin's Nose
  • The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg
  • The Voice That Challenged a Nation: Marian Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rights
  • One Crazy Summer (Gaither Sisters, #1)
  • The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba's Struggle for Freedom
  • The Water Seeker
  • Zora and Me
  • Graven Images
  • Turtle in Paradise
  • Carver: A Life in Poems
  • Show Way
  • Commodore Perry in the Land of the Shogun
  • Like Jake and Me
  • Crow
  • Journey Outside
  • In the Beginning: Creation Stories from Around the World
  • Dragon's Gate (Golden Mountain Chronicles, #3)

Share This Book

“Look at this world! So vast! So wide! Huge masses of land spread across it; multitudes of green and brown islands dotted the blue expanse of the oceans. He felt like a bird contemplating the sky.” 10 likes
“The door through which he had glimpsed such wondrous light, he had walked through. He had encountered both beauty and pain. Now he understood that was how it would always be—no matter where he went in the world.” 7 likes
More quotes…