New York : Dial Books, 2006
"Toyo watched carefully as his uncle prepared to kill himself." The year is 1890 and the way of the samuri has been banned and a new era is dawning. But Toyo's uncle is a samurai and he has asked to be allowed to perform seppuku. Toyo witnesses his uncle commit ritual suicide rather than renounce his samurai lifestyle as the emperor has ordered. As required by custom, Toyo's father decapitates his brother, and Toyo must watch because, as his father says, "Soon you will do the same for me." After witnessing the brutality of seppuku, Toyo is sent to boarding school at one of the most prestigious schools in Tokyo. There he faces another form of brutality in the hazing of the new students. Now Toyo must stradle two worlds as he learns the way of the samurai from his father while being taught at a modern school. Through it all, Toyo's only constant is baseball.
This book is set in Tokyo, Japan in 1890. This was a time of tremendous change in Japan. They were going from a feudal civilization where samurai warriors were revered, to a modern society set to become an industrial power with little need for the samurai. The story opens with the sentence, “Toyo watched carefully as his uncle prepared to kill himself.” Toyo’s uncle is a samurai who commits seppuku, ritual suicide, and Toyo’s father has plans to soon do the same. 16-year-old Toyo attends an elite boarding school in Tokyo where physical hazing and bullying are permitted. It’s not easy for the first year boys, but Toyo has his love of besubora (baseball) to keep him going. Toyo’s father wants to leave him with the lessons of bushido, the art of the samurai, so he teaches him meditation, balance, and sword fighting. Toyo sees a connection between these ancient arts and the modern world, and uses his training to perfect his baseball skills. If you like sports, there’s plenty of exciting baseball action in riveting multicultural story of friendship, courage and change. (Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Awards nominee, 2008-2009)
Samurai -- Fiction.
Fathers and sons -- Fiction.
Baseball -- Fiction.
Boarding schools -- Fiction.
Schools -- Fiction.
Japan -- History -- Meiji period, 1868-1912 -- Fiction.