Anonymous Japanese Poem from The Bamboo Sword title page
Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune and The Bamboo Sword offer insights from two very different perspectives into the culture of Japan's samurai.
Pamela S. Turner's Samurai Rising is a fast-paced biography of a key figure in war-torn Japan during the 1100's. His life story continues to inspire music, drama, movies, manga, anime, and video games.
Margi Preus' The Bamboo Sword takes readers to Japan in the mid 1800's. The story is set around an actual event: the 1852 arrival of four American ships in Edo Bay. Many of the story details are based on historically documented facts.
Taken together, both provide books offer a richly textured portrait of Japan.
These books continue to occupy my thoughts. In subsequent conversations with others I often refer to many fascinating details I learned from this paired reading. Turner and Preus provide extensive additional resource material in the form of notes, time lines, bibliographies, glossaries, maps, pronunciation guides and high- quality illustrations.
Reading both books proved to be an epic reading experience.
Samurai Weapons 1100 vs 1800
Primarily mounted archers, shooting from a galloping horse
Lacquered bamboo bow seven to nine feet long with grip one-third of the way up.
Daisho consisted of two swords
Katana: the long sword
Wakizashi: short sword used primarily for seppuku
Samurai Attire 1100 vs 1800
Red brocade under-robe and wide-legged trouser
Wide-legged hakama: article of clothing tied at the waist and falling to the ankles. Worn over a kimono.
Haori: a traditional short length kimono-type jacket
Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune by Pamela Turner
illustrations by Gareth Hinds
Minamoto Yoshitsune lived in the late twelfth century during the samurai rise to power. Centuries later his story continues to fascinate people everywhere. This retelling of his life is replete with high-action drama and fascinating glimpses into the violence and political intrigue of that time.
With extensive back matter, including detailed chapter notes, this is entertaining book also serves as an authoritative resource for research. Hinds' evocative illustrations enrich the text. It’s nonfiction at its best!
As she retells this compelling saga, Turner's research is thorough and extensive but her tone is slightly sardonic,
Sample some of Turner's highly readable narrative:
- Minamoto Yoshitsune’s inheritance arrived early. The boy could not yet walk when his father left him a lost war, a shattered family, and a bitter enemy
- And there is nothing in the world as dangerous as a man bristling with weapons and insecurities.
- When pride arrives, logic takes a hike.
- It did not help that by this time Yoshitsune probably had an ego the size of Mount Fuji.
- His ( Yoshitusune) reality was surely more intriguing, nuanced, and heartbreaking than anything we can imagine or re-create
The Bamboo Sword by Margi Preus illustrations by Yuko Shimizu
Readers will be caught up in this fascinating tale told in the alternating voices of Jack, an American cabin boy and Yoshi, servant to samurai, whose lives intersect in ways that neither could anticipate. This is an outstanding example of using two viewpoints to add dimension and understanding to a period in history.
Preus has done her research. The result is a brilliant portrayal of two distinctly different cultures. Although a companion to Newbery Honor winning Heart of a Samurai, this volume can stand alone.
The story glistens with beautiful prose. It is easy to relate to Yoshi as he seeks to understand himself and his ever-expanding world.
- I hope that someday your heart finds a home.
- Have you ever wondered where you belong?
- Some things it would be good to change. Some things will have to change. And some things may change that we wish would not. But that is the way of life, is it not?
- There is the Milky Way...river of stars unites you and me, for we see the same stars when we look up from our very different places on earth.