Recommended for ages 9-14.
In this swashbuckling adventure story by first-time British author Chris Bradford, we meet young Jack Fletcher, 12, who finds himself alone in Japan in 1609 when all his shipmates, including his father, are killed by ninja pirates. At this time the Portuguese were the only Westerners who had found the route to Japan, and Jack manages to salvage from the ship his father’s rutter, which contains all the ocean charts, an incredibly valuable resource for whoever has the rutter in his possession. Miraculously, Jack is adopted by a samurai lord who has lost his own son to the same pirates, and he rapidly learns Japanese. He is then sent to samurai school, where despite his talents, he is mocked as a barbarian foreigner.
This is a very exciting adventure story, perfect for boys who are reluctant readers and who may be anime or manga fans. Girls may enjoy it as well, as there is a very strong Japanese female character who is also training to be a samurai. Similar to the James Clavell novel Shogun in many ways, only for kids, I can't help thinking of this book as Shogun Light. The author, himself trained in numerous martial arts including samurai swordsmanship, provides lots of interesting historical details and details on fighting techniques that make the book sure to appeal to many boys.
You can read the first chapter here:
You can also listen to the prologue here:
Hyperion has provided a very attractive and informative website for the Young Samurai series, which includes Samurai School, with short videos narrated by the author containing information on samurai vs. ninja, etiquette in Japan, weapons, and Zen.
The second book in the series, Young Samurai: The Way of the Sword, was recently published in the U.S. and will shortly be reviewed on my blog.