Christmas Idea: Heart of a Samurai, Margi Preus, 2010

December 5, 2011

My husband has told me that little boys dream of being heroes–of imagining themselves as the basketball player who charges his way breathlessly down the court to dunk the winning swish, or of being the runner who flies through the tape at the finish line just ahead of his challenger, or of hearing the perfect crack as the ball hits the bat, then soars out of reach of the out-fielders at the most critical part of the game, or of being the kid who makes an amazing discovery before anyone else has thought of it. As a little girl growing up, I never had those dreams; mine were different, but the dreams, goals and questions of Manjiro in this lovely little 2011 Newberry honor book will resonate with kids of all ages.

Heart of a Samurai has all the good stuff: suspense, action, underdog overcoming odds, swords, enough blood and guts to catch even a 5th grade skateboarder offguard, prejudice, fairness and unfairness, and it includes all the best character ideals: patience, honor with morality, perseverance, courage, kindness, skill and suffering. Plus it’s based on a true story. It’s about a real guy.

I loved it. I read it in a couple of hours and couldn’t put it down. And after I’d finished it, I just wanted to hold it in my hands just a little longer to let its beauty soak in just a little more. The next day I told everyone who would listen all about it. I didn’t want it to end. If you need a gift for a late elementary or middle school age boy, this one is it. Or just check it out of the library for a holiday read in the living room next to the Christmas tree, then invite your nephews over, put some hot chocolate in their hands and settle in. I think they’ll want to hear it through to the end.


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