Monday, January 22, 2007

Samurai Shortstop

Gratz, Alan. 2006. SAMURAI SHORTSTOP. New York: Dial. ISBN 0803730756 [Suggested Grade Levels 7-12]

SAMURAI SHORTSTOP is a first-rate read: a fast paced, historical, sports novel that excels at both genres. Set in Tokyo at the turn of the century, SHORTSTOP is the story of Toyo, a first year boarding school student at the best high school in the country whose uncle has performed seppuku or ritual suicide because he is unable to adjust to a world without the rules of bushido or way of the warrior. Toyo’s father wants to follow his brother’s lead, but he needs Toyo to understand bushido so that he can assist him.

Toyo is passionate about baseball and wishes that his father could appreciate the game, but his father despises it as another western influence. As Toyo learns more about the way of the samurai, he begins to apply this knowledge to his baseball skills and comes to a better understanding of both. We are treated to many exciting games and many moments of realization that add depth to an already well-drawn character.

It is evident that Gratz has conducted extensive research for his novel. Readers experience dormitory life, the dedication, and passion of the baseball team, and the difficulty of trying to link the past to the present via the sport Toyo loves. The final game is based on an actual event that makes the climax even more exciting than if Gratz had made it up. A great boy book.

Invite students to apply what they’ve learned about bushido to a sport of their choice. Discuss whether or not bushido only applies to baseball.

Parallel book:
Haugaard, Erik. THE BOY AND THE SAMURAI. ISBN 0395563984

By Cay Geisler

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