Monday, April 19, 2010

Year of the Historical: Samurai Shortstop

Samurai Shortstop Samurai Shortstop Alan Gratz

Toyo Shimada lives in a changing Tokyo, in a changing Japan at the end of the nineteenth century. Japan is teetering between tradition and new Western ideas and inventions. Toyo embodies this, the new Japanese man, while his father is of the old school, which causes much tension.

At his elite boarding school, Toyo lives in fear of the ritual hazing by the older students, and desperately hopes to make the baseball team. For, at it's heart, this is a baseball novel, and one your sports books fan will love. But at the same time, Toyo's father is teaching him the ancient way of the Samurai, a way of life Toyo tries to fit into this new world. Baseball might be the bridge.

The baseball parts I could honestly take or leave, but I love how accurate Toyo is. He doesn't always do what we expect a hero of a teen book to do, which is great, because so often in historical fiction, we have a hero that is essentially modern shoved into a different time and place. When Gratz needs to make the decision between "likable hero" and "historically and culturally accurate person" he goes with accuracy. I loved the portrait of a changing country and the class issues that were explored, and the cultural tensions between the Japanese and Americans. There's enough here to give it to your reader who usually can't stand sports books.

Super Fantastic.

Book Provided by... my local library

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