Shipwrecked!: The True Adventures of a Japanese Boy

by Rhoda Blumberg

At age nine, in 1836, Manjiro Nakahama started fishing to support his mother and... read more

At age nine, in 1836, Manjiro Nakahama started fishing to support his mother and younger siblings after his father died. Five years later, the boy set out from a small Japanese coastal village with four other men. A violent storm pushed the boat far out to sea before crashing it on the rocks near an uninhabited island. The castaways survived for five months on seaweed, shellfish, and albatross before an American whaling ship rescued them. Quick-witted Manjiro learned English while aboard the ship. He soon began to communicate easily with the Westerners whose mannerisms and appearance seemed so foreign. Because Manjiro lived in an era when Japan intentionally isolated itself from the rest of the world, he became the first Japanese person to visit the United States. He kept a record of his observations by writing and sketching in a journal as he traveled throughout the world on whaling ships. In spite of his adventures and success as a whaler, he wanted, above all, to return to Japan — a near impossibility given that country’s strict laws against foreign travel. Rhoda Blumberg’s captivating account is greatly enriched by the political and social details she provides. We come to understand Manjiro as a man comfortable in two diverse cultures. The handsomely designed, oversized volume is generously illustrated with period illustrations, including many sketches by Manjiro. (Ages 8–14)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2002

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