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The Bamboo Sword by Margi Preus
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The Bamboo Sword

by Margi Preus

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I think my username for this site might give away my clear bias to the subject matter of this book...so as predicted I really liked this book, there I said it, and no one shall dare challenge my position...or you can but yeah, on with the review. Although this is a children's (middle-grade) book I think adults can definitely learn quite a bit of the events that occur in the story, especially if you are interesting in American history, or Japanese history...or history. The story follows two main characters, Yoshi the young Japanese boy who would love nothing more than to become a samurai, and Jack the American cabin boy who is eager to explore the strange land of Japan.

What I like the most about this story is seems to transcend what is happening to the boys and you get more of what was happening in that time period between Japan and United States of America. In the 1850's the relationship of these two countries was a little rocky, America wanted to start trading and hopefully stop the hostility towards shipwrecked sailors, and Japan wanted them to ,to say in the nicest of ways, stay away. Throughout Jack's and Yoshi's trouble filled adventure you get pieces here and there of what each country's people thought about the other. Japan thought America was filled with uncivilized barbarians and Americans thought the Japanese were heathens, and you get glimpses of this within the story of these two kids stuck in the middle of this political game of chess. You also get to see how the Japanese people might have reacted when seeing Americans for the first time. What is also interesting is that some of the events in this story are real, and so are a couple of the characters. I really like how Margi Preus mixes fiction with non-fiction to create a piece of art that entertains but also educates.

Talking about characters, Yoshi and Jack are easy to connect with. They both are very curious and have a bit of rebelliousness to make their stories fun and adventurous. Three characters that Yoshi meets along the way, Ozawa, Jiro, and Manjiro are interesting and easy to connect with in their own right. They all help him on his quest but Manjiro is the one that really plays a huge part in the story. He is also a real person, which in the back of the book it gives a lot of information on him and the other important characters not only in the story but in the time period of this interaction with Japan and America.

If you are interested in this small but important slice of history the author gives plenty of references and sources to learn more in the back of the book. She also inserts quotes from Miyamoto Musashi's "Book of Five Rings" and M.C. Perry's "Narrative of the Expedition to the China Seas and Japan", both are huge inspirations to the plot.

I do have to bring up a couple small grievances, the whole Hideki situation never gets resolved, Yoshi says he wants to repay him but it never happened which is weird because Yoshi does go back and repays Ozawa. It basically was swept under the rug and forgotten. And the second is more personal, the paintings in the book were hard to see sometimes due to them being in black and white and a bit dark, also since this is a early copy there were no captions so I didn't know who the artist was and what the piece was called. Other than these two minor complaints I really enjoyed the book.

This book was received through a Good Reads First Reads giveaway. ( )
  Wushogun | Nov 30, 2016 |
Some parts were completely unbelievable, but overall not a bad read. ( )
  pickleroad | Nov 10, 2016 |
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