Monday, February 12, 2007


A boy comes in. 12ish. He likes Eragon and Alex Rider. Shows no interest in Young James Bond and I don't have The Ranger's Apprentice on the shelf. What does he quite happily leave with? Samurai Shortstop by Alan Gratz.

I think I had him at seppuku.

Trust a 12-year-old boy to know about ritualistic Japanese suicide.

Tokyo 1890. The Samurai way of life has been outlawed and citizens told to embrace the Western way of life. Toyo Shimada doesn't understand why his uncle and his father are so against the new Japan. Toyo has just assisted at Uncle Koji's bloody seppuku when he heads off to boarding school. All he wants is to play baseball, but he must deal with hazing AND try to reason with his father who can see none of the honor of old Japan in the new world.

This is SUCH a boy book. Yay! There's bloody ritualistic suicide, quickly morphing into hazing, peeing out of windows, then some sports, some illegal samurai training and of course, some father-son bonding. I was a little disappointed at how Americanized it felt to me, as I think that more than any generation, this one is pretty well versed in Japanese culture. But maybe not historically. I don't know. But the fact that the kid knew seppuku? Yeah, I was impressed.

This and Viking Warrior are great intros to historical fiction for boys. If you don't mind some violence (Viking Warrior is far more violent than this. Not that the hazing is anything light.)


Alan Gratz said...

Thanks for recommending my book - and the great review! Tell your young reader that if he likes Samurai Shortstop I'd love to hear from him. My e-mail and more stuff about the book can be found at

Domo arigato!

Jackie said...

Will do! Thanks for stopping by! The problem I have with writing reviews is that I always think of more to say long after I've posted. I should say, more succinctly, that Gratz has found the perfect balance between gross out humor, action and history to create an ideal book for boys. There. Now that sounds better than what I first wrote, right? ;)