Synopses & Reviews
Shadow on the Mountain
recounts the adventures of a 14-year-old Norwegian boy named Espen during World War II. After Nazi Germany invades and occupies Norway, Espen and his friends are swept up in the Norwegian resistance movement. Espen gets his start by delivering illegal newspapers, then graduates to the role of courier and finally becomes a spy, dodging the Gestapo along the way. During five years under the Nazi regime, he gainsand#151;and losesand#151;friends, falls in love, and makes one small mistake that threatens to catch up with him as he sets out to escape on skis over the mountains to Sweden.
Preus incorporates archival photographs, maps, and other images to tell this story based on the real-life adventures of Norwegian Erling Storrusten, whom Preus interviewed in Norway.
Praise for Shadow on the Mountain
"Newbery Honor winner Preus infuses the story with the good-natured humor of a largely unified, peace-loving people trying to keep their sanity in a world gone awry. Based on a true story, the narrative is woven with lively enough daily historical detail to inspire older middle-grade readers to want to learn more about the Resistance movement and imitate Espenand#8217;s adventures."
and#151;Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"This engrossing offering sheds light on the Norwegiansand#8217; courage during World War II. Preus masterfully weds a story of friendship with the complications faced by 14-year-old Espen and his friends as Nazi restrictions and atrocities become part of their everyday lives...This is at once a spy thriller, a coming-of-age story, and a chronicle of escalating bravery. Multidimensional characters fill this gripping tale that keeps readers riveted to the end."
and#151;School Library Journal, starred review
"A closely researched historical novel... relates this wartime tale with intelligence and humor...Ms. Preus deftly uses together historical fact (Espen is based on a real-life spy) and elements of Norwegian culture to conjure a time and place not so terribly long ago."
and#151;The Wall Street Journal
"Margi Preus, who won a Newbery honor for Heart of a Samurai, returns with another riveting work of historical fiction... This fine novel, which includes an authorand#8217;s note, a timeline, a bibliography and even a recipe for invisible ink, is based on extensive research... The result is an authentic coming-of-age story, perfect for readers fascinated by the diary of Anne Frank or Lois Lowryand#8217;s classic, Number the Stars."
"The final chapters, which chronicle Espenand#8217;s dramatic escape to Swedenand#151;days and nights of mountain skiing, Nazis in hot pursuitand#151;take the book into adventure-thriller territory without losing the humanity that characterizes Preusand#8217;s account."
and#151;The Horn Book Magazine
"Preus makes crystal clear the life imperiling risks that Espen undertakes and the danger to his family."
and#151;The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"As readers understand the risks that Espen took, they will want to learn more about this period. That Espen escaped to Sweden by traveling at night on skis with five different guides should intrigue them.and#8221;
and#151;Library Media Connection
VOYA Top Shelf for Middle School Readers 2012 list
2013 Notable Books for a Global Society
Dorothy Canfield Fisher Book Award
"Newbery Honor winner Preus (Heart of a Samurai) delivers a riveting story about teenage freedom fighters in WWII Norway. Espen and the other members of his soccer team hope to continue to enjoy the game they love following the Nazi invasion, but both Espen's teammates and rivals are soon pulled into the resistance movement as rations are cut and their families assaulted. Espen is drafted to be a courier for the resistance, while his younger sister, Ingrid, starts sneaking ration cards to starving Norwegians. Preus ably develops a large cast of characters, rendering them with persuasive vulnerabilities and showing how each is transformed by the war. Espen's skiing missions for the resistance combine the thrilling aspects of an outdoor adventure story with political peril and the threat of violence. An author's note with photographs of the real-life inspiration for Espen, Erling Storrusten (as well as appendices on code breaking and invisible ink), bring the truth behind the powerful story into startling focus. Ages 10 14. Agent: Stephen Fraser, Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Shadow on the Mountain
recounts the adventures of a 14-year-old Norwegian boy named Espen during World War II. After Nazi Germany invades and occupies Norway, Espen and his friends are swept up in the resistance movement. Espen gets his start delivering illegal newspapers, graduates to the role of courier, and finally becomes a spy, dodging the Gestapo along the way. During five years under the Nazi regime, he gainsand#151;and losesand#151;friends, falls in love, and makes one small mistake that threatens to catch up with him as he sets out to escape on skis over the mountains to Sweden.
Preus incorporates archival photographs and other images to tell this story based on the real-life adventures of Norwegian Erling Storrusten, whom Preus interviewed in Norway.
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 14-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 there for some time 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 emperor to ease open the boundaries around Japan; he may even achieve his unlikely dream of becoming a samurai.
Heart of a Samurai is a 2011 Newbery Honor Book.
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."
Set in 1853 in Japan, this novel follows Yoshi, a Japanese boy who dreams of someday becoming a samurai. Unfortunately, as part of the serving class, Yoshi can never become a warrior. He is taken up by Manjiro, the protagonist of Preusandrsquo;s Heart of a Samurai, and becomes his servant and secret watchdog. Meanwhile, Commodore Matthew Perry and his USS Susquehanna squadron of steamships arrive in Edo Bay demanding andldquo;diplomaticallyandrdquo; that Japan open its ports to foreign trade. Aboard the commodoreandrsquo;s flagship is a cabin boy, Jack, who becomes separated from his American companions while on shore. When he and Yoshi cross paths, they set out on a grand adventure to get Jack back to his ship before he is discovered by the shogunandrsquo;s samurai.
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. Visit her online at www.margipreus.com.