Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune
by Pamela Turner,
illustrated by Gareth Hinds
Summary from Goodreads:
Minamoto Yoshitsune should not have been a samurai. But his story is legend in this real-life saga.
This epic warrior tale reads like a novel, but this is the true story of the greatest samurai in Japanese history.
When Yoshitsune was just a baby, his father went to war with a rival samurai family—and lost. His father was killed, his mother captured, and his surviving half-brother banished. Yoshitsune was sent away to live in a monastery. Skinny, small, and unskilled in the warrior arts, he nevertheless escaped and learned the ways of the samurai. When the time came for the Minamoto clan to rise up against their enemies, Yoshitsune answered the call. His daring feats and impossible bravery earned him immortality.
I try to read at least one non-fiction a year. The last few years it was whatever Steve Sheinkin published, but this year I decided to branch out. This book has been getting a lot of buzz in the library world, even Newbery worthy buzz. I can certainly see the appeal, especially to history buffs. It is well written and extremely well researched. In fact, her notes and citations are almost as long as the actual book, and some of the notes are more interesting than the story. There is a short section on women during that time period which was very interesting. Writing about a time period that is so long ago can be tricky. It is hard to separate fact from fiction, but this author really went out of her way to try to find the facts and tell it in an interesting way. The illustrations really enhance the story as well. I find it hard to believe that they wore all that elaborate armor when they went to war, I always thought it was ceremonial, but apparently not. The author has a great website that has videos of people performing fighting techniques used by the Samurai, as well as photos of their armor and other things about the Japanese culture during the Samurai era. If you click on the book cover it will take you there. Even though it is aimed at 4th grade and up, I would lean more towards older kids, unless they are really into history.