by Pamela S. Turner; illustrated by Gareth Hinds
256 pages; ages 12 & up
Minamoto Yoshitsune had little going for him. As a fatherless child he was exiled to a monastery, had no money, had few friends and no allies, and had no martial arts training. But he was smart and determined, and he had a dream.
At the age of fifteen, Yoshitsune escaped from exile, joined his half-brother, and led an uprising against the most powerful samurai in Japan.
Pamela Turner spins a tale of courage, battles, cunning, and improvisation in a story that sounds like the adventures of King Arthur or Harry Potter. Except this story is true, and accompanied by maps of battles that really took place. It is also a story about shifting loyalties, political allegiance, love, and family. There are warrior monks, archers, and much clashing of swords. There is victory and defeat.
Not only is it page-turning nonfiction, it is a perfect book to read this political season. If I gave out stars, this would get a galaxy's worth.
Pam Turner was kind enough to answer Three Questions about how she came to write Samurai Rising.
Sally: Why did you want to write this story?
Sally: How did you do the research for this book?
Pam: I started with about six months of straight research. I live near the University of California, Berkeley, and have access to their massive library. Luckily, all the primary sources have been translated into English, and quite a few Western scholars have written about this crucial period of Japanese history. All my sources are either primary sources or academic sources (as you can tell from my bibliography). I don't cut any corners because I'm writing for young people instead of adults. The actual writing took another year, during which time I continued researching.
Sally: What’s your secret for writing page-turning nonfiction?
Pam: "Page-turning" nonfiction is partially a matter of finding the right subject. I think it would be hard to write a boring book about Yoshitsune! Partially it's a matter of pacing; it's important to alternate explanatory bits with some sort of action that moves the story forward, and also to make the explanatory bits intriguing enough that they don't read like explanation. And lastly, how you end a chapter is crucial. If you end on a cliffhanger, the entire chapter will be remembered as "fast-paced".
Check out Yoshitsune’s World at Pam’s website. Click on “Enter Yoshitsune’s World” and you’ll find videos, photos, and more.
On Monday we'll the roundup over at the Nonfiction Monday blog where you'll find even more book reviews. Review copy provided by publisher.