Cover image for Shipwrecked! : the true adventures of a Japanese boy
Shipwrecked! : the true adventures of a Japanese boy
Blumberg, Rhoda.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : HarperCollins, [2001]

Physical Description:
80 pages : illustrations, map ; 29 cm
In 1841, rescued by an American whaler after a terrible shipwreck leaves him and his four companions castaways on a remote island, fourteen-year-old Manjiro learns new laws and customs as he becomes the first Japanese person to set foot in the United States.
Reading Level:
1020 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 7.4 2.0 46291.

Reading Counts RC 6-8 7.2 6 Quiz: 24242 Guided reading level: NR.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DS881.5.N3 B58 2001 Juvenile Non-Fiction Childrens Area
DS881.5.N3 B58 2001 Juvenile Non-Fiction Biography

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In the 1800s, the Japanese government had strict isolation laws. By decree, foreigners and ideas from outside Japan were forbidden. So when fourteen-year-old Manjiro and four other fishermen were shipwrecked on a small rocky island three hundred miles from shore, they wondered if they would ever be allowed to return home! Celebrated author Rhoda Blumberg regales us with Manjiro's exciting true story. He was the first Japanese person to come to the United States, and his impressions of the country give us vivid glimpses of midnineteenth-century American life. He even took part in the Gold Rush! In a surprising twist of fate, Manjiro became a hero in Japan, playing an important role in opening his country to westerners. Told here by a brilliant storyteller with a passion for history, Manjiro's biography is a fast-paced, historically accurate, inspiring true-life adventure.

Author Notes

Rhoda Blumberg was born in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, New York on December 14, 1917. She received a B.A. degree from Adelphi University in New York. After graduation, she worked as a freelance writer, researcher, and producer for both CBS Radio and NBC Radio, a talent scout for Simon and Schuster, and wrote features for several national publications. She got married in 1945 and spent more than 20 years raising their four children.

In 1973, she worked as executive editor of Simon and Schuster's travel guides. She soon decided to try writing children's nonfiction. Her first book, Firefighters, was published in 1975. She wrote more than 25 nonfiction books over the next 30 years. Her books included The Incredible Journey of Lewis and Clark, The Great American Gold Rush, The Remarkable Voyages of Captain Cook, Shipwrecked!: The True Adventures of a Japanese Boy, and York's Adventures with Lewis and Clark: An African-American's Part in the Great Expedition. Commodore Perry in the Land of the Shogun was awarded a 1986 Newbery Honor and won the Boston-Globe-Horn Book Award and the Golden Kite Award. She received the Washington Post/Children's Book Guild Award for her overall contribution to nonfiction. She also collaborated on several books with illustrator Murray Tinkelman including The Truth About Dragons and Backyard Bestiary. She died on June 6, 2016 at the age of 98.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 5^-9. Blumberg learned about Manjiro, the first Japanese person to live in the U.S., when she wrote the Newbery Honor Book Commodore Perry in the Land of Shogun (1985). Now she devotes an entire volume to his remarkable life, beginning with his childhood as a fatherless boy working as a fisherman to support his family. A shipwreck strands Manjiro on an island, where he is rescued by a passing whaling ship. He works with the crew, learning the particulars of whaling, and eventually becomes a surrogate son to the ship's captain, who takes Manjiro back to Massachusetts and to an education. After another stint at sea, Manjiro joins the gold rush and makes enough money to return to Japan. He avoids imprisonment and even death (the xenophobic era's sentence for Japanese who returned from foreign countries) by instructing the country's top officials about American customs and policies. He eventually becomes a samurai, helping broker the opening of Japanese ports to the rest of the world. Exemplary in both her research and writing, Blumberg hooks readers with anecdotes that astonish without sensationalizing, and she uses language that's elegant and challenging, yet always clear. Particularly notable is the well-chosen reproductions of original artwork, including some sketches by Manjiro himself, which help illustrate Japanese culture and viewpoints of the time, the whaling industry, and nineteenth-century America. An author's note, bibliography, and suggested Web sites conclude this outstanding biography. --Gillian Engberg

Publisher's Weekly Review

From 14-year-old castaway to honored samurai, the first Japanese person to come to the United States had more adventures than the hero of many a swashbuckler. "With insight and flair, Blumberg relays Manjiro Nakahama's (1827-1898) story, handsomely illustrated with period drawings," said PW. Ages 8-up. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 4-8-The true tale of a 14-year-old Japanese boy who, after being shipwrecked while fishing in 1841, was marooned for six months, rescued by an American whaling ship, educated in New England, and returned home to become an honored samurai. Blumberg was inspired to rescue this incredible story about Manjiro, also known as John Mung, when she realized that although it was well known in Japan, it enjoys only a small awareness in the West. The author's presentation illuminates what Japan's isolationist policies meant to individuals living there at that time and the immediate cultural differences that Manjiro experiences such as eating bread and sitting in chairs as the "first Japanese person to set foot in the United States." Her book packs a lot of excitement and drama into a few pages, and has lots of large, well-chosen illustrations. The title doesn't begin to hint at the incredibly varied adventures that are compacted here, deserving of a longer and more thorough treatment, but the text does convey the author's enthusiasm and awe of her subject. This is a good addition to libraries, as not only is it a fluid story about a fascinating person not yet on the shelves, but it also sheds light on many topics such as Japanese history, whaling practices, and 19th-century America.-Andrew Medlar, Chicago Public Library, IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Shipwreckedp. 7
Maroonedp. 11
An Isolated Empirep. 15
Rescuedp. 21
The Whaling Shipp. 25
Honolulup. 35
A Japanese New Englanderp. 39
A Crazed Captainp. 47
Digging for Goldp. 53
Arrestedp. 59
Imprisonedp. 63
Home at Lastp. 67
Honored Samuraip. 71
Author's Notep. 78
About the Illustrationsp. 80
About the Authorp. 80