Monday, March 28, 2016

Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune

Samurai Rising
written by Pamela S. Turner; illustrated by Gareth Hinds
2016 (Charlesbridge)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Warning: Very few people in this story die of natural causes

That warning is no joke. If you and/or your students, like me, are into comic book hero movies, this book will be to your liking. Minamoto Yoshitsune is like Batman on a horse. Before he could walk, his father and two older brothers are killed in their attempt to kidnap the Retired Emperor and gain respect for past slights. Losing parent at early age bringing about bitterness that fuels the hero to fight injustice as he grows older: check. Did I mention that, unlike the Caped Crusader, this is a true story? Yoshitsune is sent to a Buddhist monastery, by the man who vanquished his father, so he could follow the path of the monks. Instead of becoming a monk at age 15, he finds a traveling gold merchant who is a friend to his family. This is his chance to escape and start his plan to seek revenge for his family. Being caught after escaping from the monastery would have probably brought about a beheading, but when you want to exact revenge, you have to take your chances. Yoshitsune grows into a samurai who takes enormous risks in battle and survives. In one particular fight, he rides a horse down a cliff to penetrate a coastal enemy fortress. He's an unbelievable fighter and leader.

Samurai Rising was a book that I couldn't put down. Minamoto Yoshitsune is such an intriguing underdog that I kept flipping pages so I would find out what happened next to the most famous of all samurai. The writing, maps, and illustrations are all first class. You feel like you are riding along with Yoshitsune as he hurls himself into the battles. Middle and high school readers who like action and history will devour this book. Now I want a movie. C'mon Hollywood, make it happen!

This trailer will help provide background for interested readers:

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