Reviews for Shipwrecked : The True Adventures of a Japanese Boy


Booklist Monthly Selections - #1 February 2001
/*Starred Review*/ Gr. 5-9. Blumberg learned about Manjiro, the first Japanese person to live in the U.S., when she wrote the Newbery Honor Book Commodore Perry in the Land of Shogun (1985). Now she devotes an entire volume to his remarkable life, beginning with his childhood as a fatherless boy working as a fisherman to support his family. A shipwreck strands Manjiro on an island, where he is rescued by a passing whaling ship. He works with the crew, learning the particulars of whaling, and eventually becomes a surrogate son to the ship's captain, who takes Manjiro back to Massachusetts and to an education. After another stint at sea, Manjiro joins the gold rush and makes enough money to return to Japan. He avoids imprisonment and even death (the xenophobic era's sentence for Japanese who returned from foreign countries) by instructing the country's top officials about American customs and policies. He eventually becomes a samurai, helping broker the opening of Japanese ports to the rest of the world. Exemplary in both her research and writing, Blumberg hooks readers with anecdotes that astonish without sensationalizing, and she uses language that's elegant and challenging, yet always clear. Particularly notable is the well-chosen reproductions of original artwork, including some sketches by Manjiro himself, which help illustrate Japanese culture and viewpoints of the time, the whaling industry, and nineteenth-century America. An author's note, bibliography, and suggested Web sites conclude this outstanding biography. ((Reviewed February 1, 2001)) Copyright 2001 Booklist Reviews

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2001 Fall
Manjiro, a young Japanese fisherman, was rescued from a desert island by an American whaler, educated in Massachusetts, and returned to his homeland just in time to ease the diplomatic passage of Commodore Perry into Japan in 1853. His story, lucidly narrated by Blumberg, is uniquely suited to depicting the closed, rigorously controlled society that was Japan 150 years ago. Bib. Copyright 2001 Horn Book Guide Reviews

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Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2001 #2
Manjiro, a young Japanese fisherman, was rescued from a desert island by an American whaler, educated in Massachusetts, and returned to his homeland just in time to ease the diplomatic passage of Commodore Perry into Japan in 1853. His story would stretch credulity as fiction; yet it is true, as well as uniquely suited to depicting the closed, rigorously controlled society that was Japan 150 years ago. In accordance with tradition, Manjiro had been required to assume his father's occupation when his father's death made him the family breadwinner at the age of nine. When he was shipwrecked at fourteen, his intelligence and ingenuity made him a leader; those qualities also served him well in the U.S., where he studied navigation, became proficient in English, wrote cogent comparisons of Japanese and American society, and might have stayed but for his concern for his family. Manjiro's gifts shine through Blumberg's lucid narrative: at each extraordinary turn of fate they are recognized, whether by the crew that promoted him from cook's helper to first mate when the captain goes mad or by the Japanese officials who, after imprisoning him for months on his return, took the unprecedented course of making him a samurai of high office. Unfortunately, the book lacks an index, and its bibliographical material provides the fine text with only minimal support. Statements such as "Manjiro's story is well known in Japan" and a brief list of secondary sources don't give much sense of how we know the details of this splendidly productive and adventurous life. Even more frustrating are the captions for the illustrations. Except for those accompanying Manjiro's own drawings (revealing yet another talent of this multi-faceted genius), most simply state the subject, with information such as dates, artists, media, or original venue omitted. We all, especially young people, need to be reminded that information, including art, has sources, and that these sources always color the information-as Blumberg cleverly (but only implicitly) points out by including Japanese illustrations of Western scenes known to the artists only through Manjiro's descriptions. Copyright 2001 Horn Book Magazine Reviews

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Kirkus Reviews 2000 December #1
The life of Manjiro Nakahama, also known as John Mung, makes an amazing story: shipwrecked as a young fisherman for months on a remote island, rescued by an American whaler, he became the first Japanese resident of the US. Then, after further adventures at sea and in the California gold fields, he returned to Japan where his first-hand knowledge of America and its people earned him a central role in the modernization of his country after its centuries of peaceful isolation had ended. Expanding a passage from her Commodore Perry in the Land of the Shogun (1985, Newbery Honor), Blumberg not only delivers an absorbing tale of severe hardships and startling accomplishments, but also takes side excursions to give readers vivid pictures of life in mid-19th-century Japan, aboard a whaler, and amidst the California Gold Rush. The illustrations, a generous mix of contemporary photos and prints with Manjiro's own simple, expressive drawings interspersed, are at least as revealing. Seeing a photo of Commodore Perryside by side with a Japanese artist's painted portrait, or strange renditions of a New England town and a steam train, based solely on Manjiro's verbal descriptions, not only captures the unique flavor of Japanese art, but points up just how high were the self-imposed barriers that separated Japan from the rest of the world. Once again, Blumberg shows her ability to combine high adventure with vivid historical detail to open a window onto the past. (source note) (Biography. 10-13) Copyright 2000 Kirkus Reviews

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2001 February #2
From 14-year-old castaway to honored samurai, Manjiro Nakahama (1827-1898), the first Japanese person to come to the United States, had more adventures than the hero of many a swashbuckler. With insight and flair, Rhoda Blumberg relays Manjiro's life story in Shipwrecked!: The True Adventures of a Japanese Boy. Handsomely illustrated with period drawings, sketches and woodblock prints, the text also explains such historical elements as 19th-century Japan's carefully enforced isolation from the Western world, the importance of the American whaling industry and the enormous cultural gaps between Japanese and American societies. ( Feb.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2003 January #1
From 14-year-old castaway to honored samurai, the first Japanese person to come to the United States had more adventures than the hero of many a swashbuckler. "With insight and flair, Blumberg relays Manjiro Nakahama's (1827-1898) story, handsomely illustrated with period drawings," said PW. Ages 8-up. (Jan.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

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School Library Journal Reviews 2001 February
Gr 4-8-The true tale of a 14-year-old Japanese boy who, after being shipwrecked while fishing in 1841, was marooned for six months, rescued by an American whaling ship, educated in New England, and returned home to become an honored samurai. Blumberg was inspired to rescue this incredible story about Manjiro, also known as John Mung, when she realized that although it was well known in Japan, it enjoys only a small awareness in the West. The author's presentation illuminates what Japan's isolationist policies meant to individuals living there at that time and the immediate cultural differences that Manjiro experiences such as eating bread and sitting in chairs as the "first Japanese person to set foot in the United States." Her book packs a lot of excitement and drama into a few pages, and has lots of large, well-chosen illustrations. The title doesn't begin to hint at the incredibly varied adventures that are compacted here, deserving of a longer and more thorough treatment, but the text does convey the author's enthusiasm and awe of her subject. This is a good addition to libraries, as not only is it a fluid story about a fascinating person not yet on the shelves, but it also sheds light on many topics such as Japanese history, whaling practices, and 19th-century America.-Andrew Medlar, Chicago Public Library, IL Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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