Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Review: Tokoyo, The Samurai's Daughter by Faith L. Justice & Illustrated by Kayla Gilliam

Book: Tokoyo, The Samurai's Daughter
Author: Faith L. Justice
Illustrator: Kayla Gilliam
Publisher: Raggedy Moon Books
Publication Date: May 28, 2017
Genre: MG Fantasy; Historical Fiction; Illustrated Chapter Book
Format: Paperback
Pages: 122
Source: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes&Noble | Kobo | TheBookDepository | Audible |RaggedyMoonBooks 

About The Book: 

An adventurous girl!

Most noble-born girls of Tokoyo’s age learn to sing, paint, and write poetry.

Not Tokoyo.

She’s the daughter of a samurai in fourteenth century Japan, Tokoyo’s father trains her in the martial arts. When he is away, she escapes to the sea where she works with the Ama—a society of women and girls who dive in the deep waters for food and treasure. But disaster strikes her family. Can Tokoyo save her father using the lessons she learned and the skills she mastered to overcome corrupt officials, her own doubts, and a nasty sea demon?

Book Preview:

Tokoyo Sample Chapters 1-5
Take some time to look through the sample of chapters and illustrations in the book! If you like what you read, feel free to look at the purchase links above!

About The Author:

FAITH L. JUSTICE got her degrees in Education from Ohio State University. Kiddie Lit was her favorite course because she got to re-read all her favorite childhood stories. She currently writes award-winning fiction in Brooklyn, New York. For fun, she likes to dig in the dirt - her garden and various archaeologicial sites. Sample her work, check out her blog or ask Faith a question at her WEBSITE.

Connect with Faith L. Justice!
Email | Website/Blog | LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook |

About The Illustrator:

KAYLA GILLIAM is an independent cartoonist living in the dense suburban forests of North Carolina. When she is not juggling her five dogs (Oreo, Domino, Max, Chewy, and Baby) she enjoys researching Japanese culture.

My Review: 

You are immersed in a sea of Japanese culture in the fourteenth century, through a story inspired by the Japanese folktale called "The Tale Of The Oki Islands." Tokoyo, The Samurai's Daughter goes into more depth than the original folktale by really capturing the essence of the Ama, Japanese pearl divers who are usually women, by incorporating them into the story in a way that makes them more prominent. Even the traditional Japanese clothing worn by the Ama is showcased, such as the fundoshi, a loincloth, and a tenugui, a blessed bandana. Tokoyo learns the skillful yet difficult art of diving for pearls and food with the Ama, and thus the ability to hold her breath for a prolonged period of time, which she ultimately utililizes later in the story for a different purpose. 

Tokoyo isn't the typical dainty, young Japanese girl who learns to paint and write poetry. She is the daughter of a noble samurai and is trained in martial arts. She is fierce. She is brave. She is extremely capable as a female. So when her father, samurai Oribe Shima, is banished to the Oki islands for a suspected curse against the Regent Hojo Takatoki, Tokoyo eventually goes on an incredibly dangerous adventure in search of her father, even encountering a sea demon, to try to save him and his honor. Her skills as a samurai's daughter and as an Ama prepare her for her journey. I really adored this book! The whole story was fascinating and such a delight to read. And I was very pleased with the ending. 

It was nice to see such a strong female lead with a strong backbone, especially in fourteenth century Japan. Even in the face of hardships, Tokoyo, as a young girl, does not lose hope, and has such immense courage and fearlessness, that even a samurai would be impressed by and proud of. I also loved that in this story, a daughter is treated no differently than a son would be in terms of honor and being taught the ways of the samurai and martial arts. There is a strong sense of prestige to be a samurai and for one's kin/descendants. In an Asian culture where a son is highly prized, this book takes a refreshingly liberal take, by a samurai holding his daughter in the same esteem as he would a son. This was very endearing and even though the book displayed a moment where this was deemed unacceptable by a Japanese guard, Tokoyo and her father overlooked this. Tokoyo's samurai father was very encouraging and loving to her. I also liked how Tokoyo had so much freedom during this time period to do something for herself, in order to seek out her definition of happiness. For Tokoyo, that was diving for pearls among the Ama. 

In terms of the nature of the Japanese culture, I felt that Faith L. Justice did a wonderful job displaying the utmost respect that Japanese people have towards their elders, as shown in the well-mannered dialogue. Also, meditation is practiced in the story, which is also a well-known technique in Japan. In addition, the samurai's prominence and noble nature in fourteenth century Japan, as well as the honorable duties of the Ama were well demonstrated. Japanese folktales are also a fascinating part of Japanese culture and I loved how this story was inspired by one. I also liked that a cultural notes page was added to the back of the book, which provided definitions to the Japanese terms that were mentioned in the book.

The beautiful black-and-white illustrations in the book really bring the story to life and are brilliantly done. They are not only aesthetically pleasing, showing fine craftsmanship and artistic talent, but also grasp intense emotion. The message they evoke is powerful and meaningful. Kayla Gilliam did a marvelous job! 

Faith L. Justice created an intriguing tale that was even better than the original Japanese folktale it was inspired by. It was outstanding! You are swept away not only by the beautiful storytelling, but also the wonderful illustrations. Tokoyo, The Samurai's Daughter is a remarkable illustrated middle-grade book that is incredibly inspiring and touching. I highly recommend reading it!

My Rating: 5 STARS

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