Interest LevelReading LevelReading A-ZATOSWord Count
Grades 6 - 12Grades 3 - 8W5.4n/a
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 this new culture. Eventually the captain adopts Manjiro and takes him to his home in New England. The boy lives for some time in New England, and then heads to San Francisco to pan for gold. After many years, he makes it back to Japan, only to be imprisoned as an outsider. With his hard-won knowledge of the West, Manjiro is in a unique position to persuade the shogun to ease open the boundaries around Japan; he may even achieve his unlikely dream of becoming a samurai.


Accolades and Praise for Heart of a Samurai
2011 Newbery Honor Book
New York Times
Bestseller
NPR Backseat Book Club pick

"A terrifc biographical novel by Margi Preus." -Wall Street Journal

*STARRED REVIEW*
"It’s a classic fish-out-of-water story (although this fish goes into the water repeatedly), and it’s precisely this classic structure that gives the novel the sturdy bones of a timeless tale. Backeted by gritty seafaring episodes—salty and bloody enough to assure us that Preus has done her research—the book’s heart is its middle section, in which Manjiro, allegedly the first Japanese to set foot in America, deals with the prejudice and promise of a new world. By Japanese tradition, Manjiro was destined to be no more than a humble fisherman, but when his 10-year saga ends, he has become so much more."
--Booklist, starred review

*STARRED REVIEW*
"Illustrated with Manjiro’s own pencil drawings in addition to other archival material and original art from Tamaki, this is a captivating fictionalized (although notably faithful) retelling of the boy’s adventures. Capturing his wonder, remarkable willingness to learn, the prejudice he encountered and the way he eventually influenced officials in Japan to open the country, this highly entertaining page-turner."
--Kirkus Reviews, starred review

*STARRED REVIEW*
"Stunning debut novel. Preus places readers in the young man’s shoes, whether he is on a ship or in a Japanese prison. Her deftness in writing is evident in two poignant scenes, one in which Manjiro realizes the similarities between the Japanese and the Americans and the other when he reunites with his Japanese family."
--School Library Journal, starred review

*STARRED REVIEW*
"Preus mixes fact with fiction in a tale that is at once adventurous, heartwarming, sprawling, and nerve-racking in its depictions of early anti-Asian sentiment. She succeeds in making readers feel every bit as “other” as Manjiro, while showing America at its best and worst through his eyes."
--Publishers Weekly, starred review

"First-time novelist Preus turns the true story of Manjiro into an action-packed boy's adventure tale."
--Horn Book

Hardcover, 320 pages
Published on August 1, 2010 by Harry N. Abrams
ISBN-10: 0810989816
ISBN-13: 9780810989818
8 Book Reviews
  • abi_k_12
    abi_k_12over 2 years55 stars
    In the 1841, Manjiro and his friends are out fishing in Japan, but a huge storm comes by! They get stuck on an island, and things seem bleak for them. Awhile later, an American ship comes and saves them! They are taken to Hawaii and they can't understand English, or know where they come from. Manjiro leaves to go to America with the captain, but his friends stay behind. He meets friends, has some confrontations, and takes responsibility for his life, but in all is still very homesick. Will he ever get home? Read Heart of a Samurai to find out. I connected to this book, because I understand how Manjiro felt when he felt homesick and wanted to go back to Japan. I rate this book 5 stars because it gives you the dates of every new chapter, and the development and story line is enticing and hard to put down.
    • gianna632
      gianna632over 2 years55 stars
      This book was amazing! It shows a young boy, Manjiro, trying to raise money for his family, and goes fishing. He stumbles into a terrible storm, and gets lost at sea. An American ship finds him, and as he grows a close bond with the ship's captain, he has a big decision to make. He can either go with the American ship and live with the captain in America (and leave his homeland, Japan), or go back home to Japan. What will he choose? Read Heart of a Samurai to find out!!
      • ap3x129
        ap3x129almost 3 years44 stars
        It has a nice way to show people a history about the boy ;)
        • Idkover 3 years
          My most favorite book ever read so far
          • adamab
            adamabover 5 years44 stars
            Almost to finished great book about adventures in the see to the New world, or United States. C:
            • saysha100
              saysha100over 6 years
              i think you should read this book is because it takes your mind on a trip and it is really good my sissy read it to me
              • mrs_fondaw
                Mrs. Fondawalmost 9 years55 stars
                Fourteen-year-old Manjiro was living proof that being curious about the world around you and asking LOTS of questions will get you somewhere!