Tuesday, June 07, 2011


The following review comes from our guest contributor - Rachna Maneesh Dhir.

Author: Rhoda Blumberg
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Publisher: Harper Collins

I have to honestly say that I picked up “Shipwrecked” at the Strand Book Festival last year out of sheer curiosity as the illustrations looked interesting. However, it turned out to be an extremely fascinating book, for me personally, when I decided to read it, recently. Kindly bear with me as I digress, here.

It would not be incorrect to say that for book lovers, especially children’s book lovers, living in Bangalore, Strand Book Stall’s two sales every year, are among the most awaited family events. For those who have not been to the store itself, full of treasures and charm, I would like to share the fact that it reminds me of 80s tele serial in the US Chejavascript:void(0)ers’ title song, “Where every body knows your name”. On most days, you are greeted by Vidya Virkar, the proprietor, whose father, Mr. T. N. Shanbag, set up the parent store in Mumbai more than 60 years ago. For that matter, where in the world will you get an additional 5% discount on top of the usual 20% in memory of the founder (his death anniversary was on Febraury 27)? What a nice gesture to remember him.

So many of us have found gems at both the store and the book festivals, as regular bloggers have often testified on this site. And the best part is that the helpful staff, inspired by Vidya’s customer service ethic, tries to procure titles even after the sale is over.

Going back to “Shipwrecked”, among the various awards it has won, are:

ALA Booklist Editors’ Choice, Parents' Choice Gold Award, Book Sense 76 Pick,
ALA Notable Children’s Book, New York Public Library's "One Hundred Titles for Reading and Sharing" School Library Journal Best Book, Notable Children's Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies (NCSS/CBC), Judy Lopez Memorial Award

I will begin by quoting what others have said, in praise of this book, before I share my own observations. According to the Publishers Weekly, “Handsomely illustrated with period drawings, sketches and woodblock prints, the text also explains such historical elements as 19th-century Japan's carefully enforced isolation from the Western world, the importance of the American whaling industry and the enormous cultural gaps between Japanese and American societies.”

School Library Journal notes, “The title doesn't begin to hint at the incredibly varied adventures that are compacted here, deserving of a longer and more thorough treatment, but the text does convey the author's enthusiasm and awe of her subject. “

Now, reading about countries in history and geography textbooks is one way for children to learn about their own as well as other cultures. Reading historical fiction is another way of understanding how people lived at certain stage of time in a certain place. What Blumberg does is quite unique – use actual accounts of the life of the first Japanese to set foot in the US.

Along the way, the readers get a peep into daily lives in both the countries in the 1800s. The text is simple enough to be read out to younger children and detailed enough to be enjoyed by young adults. The observations made by the protagonist, Manjiro, in his own words, in his own sketches as well as art work produced under his guidance is mesmerizing. Furthermore, the selection by the author of the illustrations goes beautifully with the text.

In conclusion, I would like to quote the Horn Book “Manjiro’s gifts shine through Blumberg’s lucid narrative”.

What an amazing book this is!

1 comment:

ranjani.sathish said...

Wonderful review Rachna and I am so eager to pick this book for myself and my son. Historical fiction indeed makes for a wonderful reading !

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