Thirteen-year-old Yoshi is a natural with the sword and relishes the thought of slicing up the hairy, bulbous-nosed barbarian invaders to protect the Sacred Land of the Rising Sun.
Japan in 1853 is a fiercely isolationist country, and no one is expecting visitors when American explorer Commodore Perry arrives at Edo Bay with four steamships belching black smoke. The villagers fear an attack, but Perry is instead delivering a letter from U.S. President Millard Fillmore asking for open ports. Yoshi becomes embroiled in the national panic when he’s hired as a bodyguard for Manjiro (the hero of Preus’ 2011 Newbery Honor Heart of a Samurai), now a Western cultural adviser to the shogun. Yoshi’s worldview is further shaken when he finds himself nose to nose with an actual American barbarian—“lowly cabin boy” Jack Sullivan from Perry’s ship. Despite Yoshi’s rather murderous misgivings, he becomes his enemy’s protector and friend—and Jack becomes his—making a good case that xenophobia is often simply a matter of ignorance. Thanks to the lively, warm, and witty storyteller’s voice and the vivid, sensuous depictions of the katana swish and kimono swirl of 19th-century Japan, readers will feel immersed in this tumultuous time in Japanese history. As with her earlier book, the pages are liberally decorated with archival images, supplemented by original art by cover artist Yuko Shimizu.
Preus spins another suspenseful swashbuckler starring a Japanese boy who finds himself caught between cultures. (author’s note, glossary, selected bibliography) (Historical fiction. 9-13)