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Heart of a Samurai (Samurai)

3.9  ·  Rating details ·  5,836 Ratings  ·  803 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
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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

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The Shayne-Train
Jan 15, 2015 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
Yumi Learner
Jan 10, 2015 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
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
Jul 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: his-fic, middle-grade
Four stars might be generous, but I’m rounding up because this author’s prose is ridiculously fresh and vivid. She has a knack for comparisons that make me see and feel whatever she’s writing about, so even the slower parts are fairly fun and engaging. And hooray for fascinating historical context! Between that and the writing, an otherwise mediocre story shone with life and color.
Absolutely fascinating! I love Margi Preus' books, and how she blends real history with a great narrative, and this was no exception. I really loved the real sketches and pictures in this book, too. I knew of Japan's centuries old isolation, but I did not know that the first Japanese person to see America, and one of the first Japanese to be allowed back after having left Japan, was this young man, Manjiro. What a fascinating life!

I picked this up in the library (though I have been meaning to r
Jonathan Peto
Jul 25, 2012 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
Dec 29, 2010 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
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 (Bookinista08)
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
Jan 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
Aug 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was such a nice read.
I loved the writing, the way the author described the surroundings and the characters.
The plot was interesting, there was a moment i felt like it made no point to the story, but i end up enjoying this book so much.
Feb 26, 2012 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 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
Apr 26, 2013 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
Jan 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library
After being swept out to sea by a sudden storm, Manjiro and his fellow fishermen know they will likely never return to Japan - the island does not welcome those who are or have been tainted by the "blue-eyed barbarians." His fellow countrymen resign themselves to their homeless fate, but Manjiro befriends the captain and several of the crew, learning their language and ways. Even as the others disembark in Hawaii, he stays on board and becomes John Mung, ever striving, dreaming and asking questi ...more
Diana Rose
Dec 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
I finished this whole book in one sitting. It was a quick, easy read, but nonetheless one that I really enjoyed and learned a lot from. It conveyed a lot of good life lessons and observations on differences between people/cultures and how to overcome them.

Heart of a Samurai is based on the true story of a Japanese man named Manjiro. From what I gathered after reading the historical note in the back of the book, Preus has accurately followed the general outline of Manjiro's story very well, altho
May 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
There are many other wonderful reviews of this book which reference in depth its content. Thus, I will limit myself, as much as possible, to my personal reaction. This is a fictionalized account of the exceptional early life of John Mung, Nakahama Manjiro. Manjiro was a 19th Century Japanese fisherman who at the age of 14 shipwrecked on an uninhabited island off the coast of Japan and was soon thereafter rescued by an American whaler. For reasons explained in the book, it took Manjiro 10 years t ...more
May 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Fans of "Carry on, Mr Bowditch," "Around the World in 80 Days," "Mr Popper's Penguins," and other travel/adventure books would enjoy this story of a Japanese boy who is shipwrecked and eventually travels to America.
I had been looking forward to reading this book, and I was not disappointed. The story is fast-paced and human without sacrificing historical or cultural accuracy. I especially want to recommend it to my students who have lived abroad.
Ansley Medlicott
Nov 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loved reading this book while living in Japan. Manjiro’s story is relatable and conveys the challenges of living between and loving two opposite cultures. I wish I had known that this was based on true events from the beginning - only read that at the end :)
Gabe F
Apr 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I accidentally deleted my review so hear we go take 2.
This book was so amazing I don't want to spoil it because it is so amazing. It takes you on an adventure. I can't believe this is a true story as it is so amazing and adventures I didn't think anyone could have such a fantasy esc life. It is magical and my favorite book so far this year. READ IT NOW!
Miss Welsh
Apr 01, 2017 rated it it was ok
The main protagonist might have had the heart of a Samurai, but I absolutely do not because I did not care of this story.
Becky B
Manjiro was fourteen when he set out with four friends on a fishing trip that went epically bad. They were swept away from the shores of Japan in a storm and shipwrecked on a deserted rocky island. Eventually an American whaling vessel spotted and rescued them. Japan had strict isolationist laws at this time, and Manjiro and his friends knew they'd never be allowed to return home. The captain of the whaling ship was kind and fair, and gave the refugees safe passage to Hawaii. During the trip, Ma ...more
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 09, 2011 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
Feb 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
A true story of a young Japanese boy, Manjiro, who is ship wrecked off the coast of Japan in the 1850's. It is his willingness to change his perceptions of his known world and learn new things that change his world and ensure his survival. Remarkable that a 14 year old boy can learn enough English, learn sailing aboard a whaling vessel, and learn customs enough to survive. He takes chances, thinks through situations and reacts with integrity. Fascinating the life he lived and world he saw. He ne ...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 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
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“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.” 11 likes
“These shells are just like the people of the world, Okachan,' Manjiro said, speaking not just to his mother, but to everyone. 'They come from many places. They come in many different colors and sizes. But they are all beautiful.” 8 likes
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