Heart of a Samurai

Published by Amulet Books for Young Readers, cover illustration by Jillian Tamaki

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.

Featured on NPR’s Backseat Book Club

Reviews

an action-packed, boy’s adventure tale.
Hornbook
It’s a classic fish-out-of-water story . . . and it’s precisely this classic structure that gives the novel the sturdy bones of a timeless tale.
Booklist / starred review
. . . stunning debut novel. . .
School Library Journal / starred review
. . . highly entertaining page-turner. . .
Kirkus / starred review
adventurous, sprawling, heartwarming. . .
Publishers Weekly / starred review
. . .a terrific biographical novel. . .
Wall Street Journal
This was perhaps one of the best books I’ve ever read. I have to say that I greatly enjoyed having the honor to read and review this fantastic book. I enjoyed it so much, I couldn’t stop reading it, and finished it in three days. I would have read more each day, but I wanted to savor the story; let the suspense sink in. Yes, I would DEFINITELY recommend this book to you all- children and adults alike, so you too can read and become genuinely inspired by the true story of ‘the boy who discovered America,’ Manjiro.
Vinny De Bellis, age 12 / for LA Parent Magazine

Awards

Newbery Honor Book
ALSC Notable Children’s Book
Asian/Pacific American Award for Children’s Literature
Listed as one of the Best Children’s Books of the year by

Bank Street College, Publishers Weekly, New York City Public Library, Kirkus Reviews

Notable Book for a Global Society
Kiddo Award – Editor’s Pick
Global Reading Challenge Book

Seattle Public Library