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*Starred Review* Manjiro is 14 when a freak storm washes him and his four fishing companions onto a tiny island far from their Japanese homeland. Shortly before starving, they are rescued by an American whaling ship. But it's 1841 and distrust is rampant: the Japanese consider the whalers barbarians, while the whalers think of the Japanese as godless cannibals. Captain William Whitfield is different—childless, he forges a bond with the boy, and when it comes time for Manjiro to choose between staying with his countrymen or going to America as Whitfield's son, he picks the path of adventure. 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. Bracketed 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. Wonderful back matter helps flesh out this fictionalised version of the same story told in Rhoda Blumberg's Shipwrecked! The True Adventures of a Japanese Boy (2001). Grades 7-11. --Daniel Kraus --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Margi Preus is the author of The Peace Bell and two forthcoming books for young people as well as co-author of The Legend of the Ladyslipper and A Book of Grace. She also writes and co-writes plays, sketches, adaptations, comic operas and theatrical titbits for a variety of children's and adult theatre companies.