Book talks for readers at Chisago Lakes Middle School.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus

Chi! Chi! Chi! Le! Le! Le! Viva Chile!

Chi! Chi! Chi! Le! Le! Le! Los Mineros De Chile!

Do you remember the chant heard round the world when the 33 Chilean miners were rescued? For me it still conjures up memories of hope and excitement. Only a few months ago 700,000 tons of rock collapsed on the miners during their shift in a copper mine deep below the surface. The miners were trapped for over two months, but we forget that for the first 17 days they had no contact with the outside world. At the time, did they believe they would ever get out? What hope did they cling onto through their ordeal? How did they live with barely any food or water? Today we still call their survival a miracle.

In the book, Heart of a Samurai, by Margi Preus, we enter the year 1841 off the coast of Japan. In their boat battered by a severe storm, a crew of fishermen hopelessly drift away from their beloved homeland. With no way to contact the outside world, without enough food or freshwater, they begin their eighth day “huddled together, prepared to die.” As they consider their final moments, the fishermen begin to share hopes and dreams they once had for their lives. Denzo, the oldest, told of his wish to buy his own boat. Another told of his wish to marry a girl back in the village. After all his elders had spoken, fourteen-year-old Manjiro blurted out:

“I had hoped to become a samurai.”

The whole crew laughed. Manjiro’s wish was impossible, what a dreamer! Everyone one of them was a mere fisherman. Their forebears had been fishermen. Their sons would have been fishermen. There was no conceivable way a boy like Manjiro could rise to the rank of samurai. They teased him that as a samurai he would just look for poor fishermen to beat up. Manjiro ignored them. He knew he would not be that kind of samurai. He would show more forbearance than to slice a poor fisherman in half for no reason. Manjiro remembered how his father had told him of Bushido, the samurai code of honor. He learned that samurai studied more than just the art of how to kill people with a sword.

Manjiro’s daring words broke the forlorn mood of the men temporarily, but only forestalled the inevitable. One of them would have to shake Manjiro from his reverie gently. The best outcome the crew could hope for was for their dead bodies to be washed back ashore to their beloved homeland. Japanese fishermen were forbidden to navigate this far from the coast. No one from home would rescue them this far from shore. If the improbable happened and they were rescued by outsiders, they would never be permitted back home again. Such a rescue would taint them. They would be considered contaminated. Japan in 1841 was a closed country; no foreign devils from the outside world were permitted to poison Japanese ground.

As he wondered what loomed ahead, Manjiro looked at the pink light that rimmed the eastern horizon. It looked like “the light from another world, spilling through a slightly open door.” Was this a sign that he would have to look for hope in another direction, away from the home he loved? Would the pink light lead miraculously to another life for him and his countrymen?

Find out how the heart of a samurai leads Manjiro on a high seas adventure that will later make him known as the boy who discovered America. Learn how a dream so resilient would not be easily extinguished by any circumstance. Admire the character of a young man who faced overwhelming odds in his attempt to return to the home he loved. If you like adventure and a book that is based on a true story, then I'd like to recommend, Heart of a Samurai, by Margi Preus.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts with Thumbnails