Reviews for Manjiro : The Boy Who Risked His Life for Two Countries

Booklist Reviews 2008 September #1
This picture-book biography profiles America's first Japanese resident. Manjiro was a 14-year-old Japanese fisherman when his boat was swept out to sea in 1841. At that time, the law threatened death to any citizen who returned after leaving Japan. A castaway on a rocky island, Manjiro was rescued by an American ship whose captain took the boy under his wing, taught him navigation and farming, sent him to school, and enabled him to realize his dream of returning home. From Massachusetts, where a church deacon steered Manjiro to the Negro section, to California, where he successfully panned for gold, McCully's clearly written narrative portrays mid-nineteenth-century America as vividly as Manjiro's adventures, and both setting and characters come to life in this Caldecott-winning illustrator's dramatic paintings. Lists of books and Web sites are appended, along with an author's note commenting on matters outside the scope of the story, such as the long period of Japanese isolation and Manjiro's later achievements. Copyright 2008 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2009 Spring
Manjiro, fourteen, survives being lost at sea in the 1840s. Rescued by whalers, he's taken to New England where he diligently equips himself with the skills to return to Japan almost ten years later. The story is well told and involving. Alternating half- and full-page watercolors provide atmosphere and historic detail. An informative note and a world map of Manjiro's travels are appended. Websites. Bib. Copyright 2008 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2008 #6
"For over two and a half centuries Japan had been closed to the outside world. Anyone who tried to return after leaving the country could be put to death." So even if Manjiro and his fellow fishermen do survive (first) a storm and (second) being lost at sea, their welcome home is uncertain. In this true story from the 1840s, Manjiro, fourteen, eventually finds himself rescued by American whalers, who take him back to New England where he diligently equips himself with the skills and acquires the funding to return to Japan almost ten years later. Though long for a picture book, the story is well told and involving; alternating half- and full-page watercolor illustrations aren't always as dramatic as they should be but provide atmosphere and historic detail. An informative note, a world map of Manjiro's travels, and a bibliography are appended. Copyright 2008 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2008 September #1
In this incredible true story, a poor Japanese boy, through fate and enterprise, bridges the cultural gap between Japan and America at a time when Japan was isolated from the world. In 1841, 14-year-old Manjiro and four other fishermen became castaways on a desert island for six months until rescued by an American whaling ship. The resourceful, adaptable Manjiro soon became Captain Whitfield's favorite, eventually returning to Fairhaven, Mass., where Whitfield educated and mentored him. Initially regarded as a foreigner, the enterprising Manjiro became a popular, respected member of the community, but never forgot his family in Japan. He subsequently worked on a whaling ship and in the California gold rush to save enough money to return to his native land, where he was instrumental in teaching Japan about America. The historically rich text and the realistic watercolor illustrations capture Manjiro's life and times--both in Japan and New England--making this a first-rate introduction to a relatively unknown young figure in Japanese-American relations. (author's note, map, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 7-11) Copyright Kirkus 2008 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

School Library Journal Reviews 2008 October

Gr 3-6-- A fascinating episode from Japanese history, related in an oversize picture-book format. In 1841, while 14-year-old Manjiro and four men were fishing, their small boat was destroyed in a storm, and they were cast away on a tiny island for almost six months. Though they survived a drought and an earthquake, they feared for their lives. "For over two and a half centuries Japan had been closed to the outside world. Anyone who tried to return after leaving the country could be put to death." They were finally rescued by a New England whaling ship. At journey's end, Captain Whitfield took Manjiro home to New Bedford, MA. Whitfield married and bought a farm where the boy learned to plant, cultivate, harvest, and ride a horse--a skill reserved for samurai in Japan. Despite increasing homesickness, he attended school and graduated at the top of his class. In 1849, the California gold rush lured him to San Francisco where he collected $600 in gold dust in 70 days. Finally, after a nine-year absence, he headed back to Japan with two of the original castaways. When they arrived, government officials jailed and questioned them for seven months. He told them of America's desire to trade and of railroads, telegraphs, drawbridges, and wristwatches. At last, he became an honored samurai. An author's note gives background on Japan's 250-year isolationist policy and how one curious, determined boy opened the door to the Western world. McCully's realistic watercolors are striking against white backgrounds and show the contrast between traditional Japanese and 19th-century New Englanders as well as the tumultuous seas and perils of a fishing life. An exciting account of a pivotal period in U.S.-Japanese history.--Barbara Auerbach, New York City Public Schools

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