Synopses & Reviews
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
"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
"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
"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
"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."
"Moss returns to the subject of her 2011 picture book Nurse, Soldier, Spy with a captivating piece of YA historical fiction based on the daring life of Civil War heroine Sarah Emma Edmonds. Sarah is raised on a farm by her abusive father, and she runs away before he can marry her off. Out of necessity, Sarah assumes the identity of a man, Frank Thompson, working as a traveling book salesman, among other odd jobs. At 19, she volunteers for the Union Army of the Potomac, with the aim of gaining the power and independence she's been denied. Sarah is grateful for the camaraderie and sense of purpose the army provides her, but she is surrounded by suffering and death. Her duties as a nurse, soldier, mail carrier, spy, and writer require her to don many isolating masks and to endure a long-unrequited love. Writing in a sharp-witted, picaresque style, Moss gives Sarah a candid and perceptive voice. Historical materials including letters, photographs, and a timeline further enrich an epic as adept at depicting Civil War horrors as it is at exploring the politics of gender. Ages 12 up. Agent: Alyssa Eisner Henkin, Trident Media Group. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Historical fiction at its best, this novel by bestselling author Marissa Moss tells the story of Sarah Emma Edmonds, who masqueraded as a man named Frank Thompson during the Civil War. Among her many adventures, she was a nurse on the battlefield and a spy for the Union Army, and was captured by (and escaped from) the Confederates. The novel is narrated by Sarah, offering readers an in-depth look not only at the Civil War but also at her journey to self-discovery as she grapples with living a lie and falling in love with one of her fellow soldiers.
Using historical materials to build the foundation of the story, Moss has crafted a captivating novel for the YA audience. The book includes a Civil War timeline, archival photos, a glossary of names, and a detailed note on sources.
Praise for A Soldier's Secret
"A female Civil War soldier is brought alive for readers...Moss convincingly but never gratuitously portrays the gore, horror and boredom of war. An intimate look at a soldier's life from a compelling, historical perspective."
—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"A captivating piece of YA historical fiction."
—Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Moss combines fiction with biography in this compelling account…Many battles are graphically described, and the novel is crammed with atmosphere and detail.”
—Bay Area News Group
"Whether a valiant soldier or angel of mercy, Sarah is a brave and loyal historical figure, well deserving of readers’ attention."
—School Library Journal
"Moss’ novel offers a fascinating, first-person portrait."
"The novel is well-written, vividly capturing the drama of Edmonds’ story as well as larger wartime realities.”
—Library Media Connection
Historical fiction at its best, this novel by bestselling author Marissa Moss tells the story of Sarah Emma Edmonds, who masqueraded as a man named Frank Thompson during the Civil War. Her adventures include serving as a nurse on the battlefield and spying for the Union Army, and being captured by (and escaping from) the Confederates. The novel is narrated by Sarah, offering readers an in-depth look not only at the Civil War but also at her journey to self-discovery as she grapples with living a lie and falling in love with one of her fellow soldiers.
Using historical materials to build the foundation of the story, Moss has crafted a captivating novel for the YA audience. The book includes a Civil War timeline, archival photos, a glossary of names, a detailed note on sources, and a new readers guide.
About the Author
Margi Preus has written many popular plays and picture books for children. She teaches a childrens literature course at the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, Minnesota, where she writes for Colder by the Lake Comedy Theater and also watches for whales on Lake Superior. This is her first novel. Visit her online at www.margipreus.com.