Samurai Shortstop

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12+
ISBN
0803730756
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Baseball and Honor...in 1890's Japan
Overall rating 
 
5.0
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5.0
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I honestly wasnt sure what to expect from Samurai Shortstop. Was it going to be one of those Angels in the Outfield type books? Or more like a Matt Christopher title -- The Kid Who Only Hit Homers? When I received my review copy and took a look at the cover, I still wasnt sure. What was this? Some kind of Zen Baseball book?

My jitters were for nothing. What this is kind of defies pigeonholing it is, simply enough, an excellent book. Incredibly well-researched, engrossing, poignant, and honest. Just a great book.

Set in 1890s Japan, this is a story of both culture clash and generation gaps. Toyo Shimada is starting out at one of the most elite boarding schools in Japan; a school that turns out the future leaders of the country. While that should be foremost in his mind, he is instead dwelling (rightfully so) on the recent ritual suicide (seppuku) of his Uncle Koji. Not only did he have to witness it, but he had to assist with certain parts. If that wasnt enough, he knows that he is being groomed to carry out his fathers seppuku.

Toyo really isnt sure he understands his father. Sotaro was a samurai, the same as his brother Koji. But in 1890s Japan, the new Emperor has declared that there are no more samurai, that everyone is now equal all commoners. The time of the samurai and bushido, the way of the warrior, are over. But Sotaro still clings to the old ways. He is not ready for the new Japan.

He also doesnt understand his son, or Toyos love of baseball or besuboru. To him, it is a Western game full of deceit and no honor. Toyo sees it differently, and does everything he can to get on Ichikos team.

Even though he is an excellent player, getting on the team isnt easy. Ichiko is a school full of traditions, including many that we would call hazing in todays world. When reading Samurai Shortstop, readers must keep in mind both the time and the place the actions of Toyo and his fellow classmates horrify us now, but were accepted as normal then.

As Sotaro teaches Toyo how to become a samurai, Toyo begins to see parallels in his own life, especially with the game of besuboru. He manages to become the link between the old world his father still misses and that of the new Japan that is unfolding around themeven gaining the respect of some gaijin (foreigners) American baseball players when the Ichiko Nine roundly defeat the interlopers.

The authors research for this novel really shows through in the details of every day life in Japan at the turn of the century. He has also managed to perfectly capture the heart and mind of a young boy living during that time delicately balancing our reactions now to the actions of then. I really enjoyed this one much more than I thought I would (Im not much of a baseball fan; Id only attend a game if the hot dogs were good).

Its a solid novel about, yes, baseball, but also much higher themes of loyalty, honor, tradition, progression, compassion, understanding&I recommend this one for readers aged 12 and up. Studying Japan in school? This would be an excellent resource to include. Told in Toyos voice, the scenes are much more immediate than any dry old textbook.
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Not Just for Sports Fans
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5.0
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Reader reviewed by happybluejess

Somehow Alan Gratz managed to get me interested in baseball. And that's no small feat. As Toyo Shimada struggles to find his place at boarding school and endures the ritual torment of the upperclassmen, he also grapples with his uncle's suicide and his own samurai background. His father instructs him in bushido, the way of the warrior, and Toyo tries to bridge the gap between old and new in a rapidly-changing Japan, applying his lessons to the Western game of baseball. In the process he discovers a way to honor his history while pursuing his dreams. A memorable journey.
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SO BAD!
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Reader reviewed by yomama

An awful book. Don't take pressious time out of your life to read this. Terrible characters, a plot that a two year old could create, and any grade 8 that went through the canadian curriculum for Japan could have as much knowledge of japan to create this book. The writing stile is week and boring. Don't waste your money or time on such a terrible novel. I think I became more more stupid from this book.
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Samurai Shortstop Review
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4.0
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Reader reviewed by Clay

This book is very good for young adults who like baseball and history. I didn't know much Japaneze, but now I know many words, like baseball is besuboru!!! If you are looking for an interesting book, this is one I would reccomend to you!!!!!
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My favorite book of all time
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5.0
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Reader reviewed by Terell Monteiro

Samurai Shortstop. Greatest book I have read in a very very long time. Once again this book is not just about a game of baseball. This book can transform your outlook on any other subject or genre. I first judged the book and intended it was just about Japan and how baseball affected the country or the history of baseball. I was very wrong to judge. This book inspired to read on and enjoy what I have in life today. The setting, the people, the mood of the story is just fascinating. Exploded with a great storyline, This book can be brought out as a life of realistic intendency. Once again, This book is great and I would recommend to anyone and everyone. I read this book and 8th grade, And I am still blown away and I honestly think not one other book can top the feelings I have for such a great book.
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