Commodore Perry in the Land of the Shogun

Book review by
S. K. List, Common Sense Media
Commodore Perry in the Land of the Shogun Book Poster Image
A vivid picture of Perry's historic mission.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.


Reports of swordplay, official punishment and humiliation, and ritual suicide.


Brief references to sailors' sexual interest in ladies ashore.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that despite inadequate illustration, this book manages to make an historical action, largely motivated by trade opportunities and diplomatic ambition, both exciting and understandable.

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What's the story?

America's nineteenth-century courtship of Japan thrust the isolated Land of the Rising Sun reluctantly into the midst of world affairs. Through deft depictions of personalities, clearly explained events, and colorful sidelights, this excellent history paints a vivid picture of U.S. Navy officer Matthew Perry's historic diplomatic mission.


Is it any good?

Rhoda Blumberg's lucid writing, immediate in tone and easily accessible to bright youngsters, springs from deep knowledge and research. Had they landed on another planet in 1853, Americans could scarcely have encountered a culture more alien to their own than that of 19th century feudal Japan. Blumberg brings this strangeness to life, spelled out in such details as banquet menus, table manners, and jarringly different social customs. Blumberg has produced a thorough treatment of a little-known but pivotal event in world history. 

Unfortunately, the grace of her approach is undermined by the book's poor picture quality. Although the pictures are well chosen and fascinating, they often are poorly reproduced. Even so, beguiled by tales of samurais excitedly riding a toy railroad bestowed by the Americans, of Dutchmen made to jump and dance to amuse the shogun's court, of the Japanese fashion for black-painted teeth, young history hounds will eagerly gobble up this excellent account.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about unfamiliar cultures. What part of your own culture do you think might seem strange to a visitor from another culture? How can you learn more about different peoples and places around the world?

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