Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Born in the Year of Courage by Emily Crofford

First Line: Manjiro lay wondering why he had awakened with a sense of foreboding.

Based on the life of a real person, Born in the Year of Courage is the story of a poor, fifteen-year-old fisherman named Manjiro who, in 1841, was marooned on an island with his crewmates and later rescued by an American whaling ship. Since the American ship was not allowed to enter Japanese territorial waters, Manjiro and the others knew the only thing they could do was stay aboard the whaler.

When the whaler leaves Hawaii, the other fishermen choose to stay in that tropical paradise, but Manjiro follows Captain Whitfield. Manjiro is raised by the Whitfields as a son. He learns English, attends school, and signs on as second mate and navigator on board another American ship. Extremely hard-working and loyal, Manjiro remains true to both his Japanese and his American families, and as an adult works tirelessly to open Japan to contact with the rest of the world. 

This book, geared towards pre-teens, is just as interesting to read for adults. Crofford shares much information into the lives of the Japanese in the first half of the nineteenth century as well as what life aboard a whaling ship was like. The chapters concerning the shipwreck and being marooned on a rather barren island are gripping.

Manjiro, a simple man whose culture didn't allow him to have a surname, is a truly inspiring person who believed that oceans link countries, not separate them, and he spent his life working for what he believed in. I am a long way from being a pre-teen, but I was very impressed with the power and insight of this book. 

Born in the Year of Courage by Emily Crofford
ISBN: 9781575054247
First Avenue Editions © 1991
Paperback, 160 pages

Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Rating: B
Source: Paperback Swap 


  1. Cathy - I am always a fan of people who can make history accessible to young people. And if the story also appeals to those of us who are so young, so much the better.

    1. Except for a brief prologue and epilogue, this book reads like an adventure story, which should really appeal to a wide range of people. I find it refreshing to read a book geared toward young people occasionally. Must be due to the distant past when I was in charge of the children's section of our village library!


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