Cousins of Clouds

Cousins of Clouds
Tracie's NEW BOOK!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Young Samurai: The Way of the Warrior

Young Samurai: The Way of the Warrior
by Chris Bradford

About the book:
For the past two years, twlve-year-old Jack Fletcher has been a rigging monkey on a British vessel. Jack’s father, the ship’s navigator, has been teaching him all that he knows, through his rutter, an invaluable book of maps and notes on the world’s unchartered oceans.
When a storm forces the ship into an unfriendly bay, it is attacked by ninja pirates who have been sent to steal the rutter. Helpless against the powerful ninja the entire crew, including Jack’s father, is slaughtered during the ensuing fight.
Washed up on the shores of a mysterious land known to the British as the Japans, Jack is wounded and left for dead. He is soon rescued by Masamoto-san, one of Japan’s greatest samurai. At first Jack is terrified; he cannot communicate, nor does he know anything of Japanese customs. He becomes friends with Masamoto’s niece, the graceful and powerful Akiko, who teaches him the language and how to fit in. Soon, Jack is deemed ready to join Masamoto’s household and is sent to samurai school where he will learn the Way of the Warrior.
Life at samurai school is fraught with difficulty, and Jack is bullied for being a “barbarian.” He begins the grueling physical and psychological traning required of all the students. While guarding the only thing he has from his father, the rutter, and hoping it will help him get home one day, Jack needs all the courage he can muster to prove to his fellow students that he has what it takes to be a samurai.

List everything you know or have heard about samurai.

Discussion guide:

  1. What dangers does Jack Fletcher face as he crosses the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans as a rigging monkey?  What qualities do you think are necessary for a good sailor and rigging monkey in particular?
  2. What happens to the Alexandria in route to Nagasaki? How does it change the fate of Jack and his father forever? What happened to Jack’s father and the other crew members?
  3. What is Jack’s only possession? Why is it so important? Do you think he should reveal its importance to Masamoto or not? Defend your answer. What about after the attack?
  4. What do you think would be the most interesting and most difficult aspects of being dropped inside a different culture?
  5. Make a list of all the people Jack is meeting in the “Japans.” What do each of them teach him?
  6. Who is the man with the scarred face? Why does he take such an interest in Jack? How is he accepted into the family?
  7. As a reader how do you come to understand the importance of the Prologue? Why do you think the author chose to start the novel this way? How is it related to jack’s story?
  8. Who is Father Lucius? Would you trust him? What does he want from Jack? Why does he consider Jack a heathen?
  9. “The key to the Japanese is their language…It reflect their whole way of thinking. Understand Japanese, and you understand them.” (p. 99) What does this mean? How does Jack learn to think like a native person? What are the similarities and differences between Jack’s culture and the Japanese culture?
  10.  How do the young men jostle for dominance and control of each other in the novel? Do similar spars still happen between modern young men? Why?
  11.  How does Jack earn Yamato’s respect? Why doesn’t it last at the Butokuden? Have you ever denied a friend due to peer pressure?
  12.  Why does Jack decide to share the truth of the rutter with Akiko? How is she more than what she originally appeared to be? Are you surprised that women were samurai?
  13. What does it mean to “lose face” in this culture? Is it similar in our culture today? How is it restored for them? Who loses face in the story? What are the effects?
  14. “In order to be walked on you must be lying down.” (p. 188) How is this quote more than its literal interpretation? Are you more likely to walk on or to be walked upon? Why?
  15.  How does Jack prove his stamina and willpower with the bokken? Have you ever been able to do more than you thought physically or psychologically possible?
  16. Explain the different aspects of training at the Butokuden. Which would be most interesting for you? What do you think would be the most difficult? What fans Akiko’s passion for the kuujutsu?
  17.  Why does Jack face even greater trials at the school than the other students? How does this force him to grow? Who, in particular, has difficulty with his presence? Why?
  18. Describe what happened during the Hanami festival? Why does Masamoto choose Akiko, Jack and Saburo to fight in the Taryu-Jiai? What happens to Yamato?
How do they prepare for the match? What special skill does Jack learn from Sensei Yamada?
  1.  Describe the results of each part of the tournament and the tie-breaking conclusion. How are things ultimately resolved?
  2.  Predict what you think will happen next for Jack and his friends.



As you read create a cause and effect chart like the one below for each major event in the story:

       CAUSE:                                             ACTION:                                      EFFECT:

Good readers make predictions as they read. They are also able to summarize the most important events as they read. Fill out the following chart as you read the novel and use it as a springboard for discussion. Remember: predictions do not have to be correct (so don’t fill it in after-the-fact) It would be boring to always know the end!

One sentence summary:
A prediction in the form of a question:
Tenno, the oldest son of Masamoto is murdered by a Ninja as a message to his father.
I wonder if Tenno will somehow survive this attack and take revenge on the ninja.











































Create a piece of art inspired by something in the Japanese culture that is new for Jack (food, music, gardens, clothing, festivals, etc.)

Social Studies:
Research and create a poster, Powerpoint or web page on one of the following topics from the novel:

Martial Arts
Zen meditation
Toba, Japan
History of ocean navigation
Trade route of the 1600’s
Japanese language
Festival of the Hanami
Japanese gardens
Japanese architecture
Food and diet of Japanese people