The Perfect Sword
Scott Goto, author/illustrator
Scott Goto's children's books include The Great Pancake Escape (Walker) and Will Rogers, Larger than Life (Walker). Scott lives in Honolulu, Hawaii, on the island of Oahu.
Read more about Scott.
- Horned Toad Tales List
- Storytelling World Award for Adolescent Listeners
After forging a magnificent samurai sword, a Japanese swordsmith of the Tokugawa period seeks a worthy owner for it. Swordsmith Sensei Masa and his apprentice Michio spend days hammering, shaping, polishing and sharpening the blade. Sensei knows it will be difficult to find the right owner since many samurai are "thugs and bullies who do not follow the Bushido." When a strong, confident warrior tries to buy the sword, Sensei dismisses him as too cruel and arrogant. When wealthy Lord Toda argues he deserves the sword because he is noble, Sensei refuses him as too privileged. When a ronin dedicated to Kenjutsu argues the sword should be his, Sensei finds him too selfish. Many candidates are eliminated before Sensei finds the perfect samurai for his perfect sword. Dramatic oil illustrations emphasize samurai mannerisms, facial expressions and moves while the text captures the rhythms of the Japanese language. An attractive and informative introduction to sword-making in ancient Japan with insight into the samurai code of honor.
Master swordsmith Sensei Masa and his apprentice Michio work long and hard to create magnificent swords. When a new sword is finished, they must find a warrior worthy of it. A series of seemingly worthy men come to buy it, but Sensei finds them each too cruel, too privileged, or too selfish. While in the market one day, they see a brave young samurai disarm a thief without using his sword. They invite him to their home. When he reveals himself to be both honorable and constantly trying to be better, Sensei gives the humble but delighted youth the sword. Sensei and Michio then begin to work on another "perfect sword." Goto's oil paintings have an intensity that helps convey the Japanese spirit inherent in the sword/samurai relationship. The picture on the cover shows Sensei holding up a sword that seems to glow as Michio stares open-mouthed at it. The end pages depict the ritual followed during bathing and dressing, the title page shows master and apprentice bowing to each other in formal greeting, and the next page is a detailed picture of the workshop. The ceremonial basis of the craft, the clothing, and the architecture of the time are portrayed clearly. There is a wonderful five-part action illustration of the young samurai's conquest of the thief. Notes on sword making in ancient Japan and Goto's aims in writing the book are included, along with a glossary.
Bureau County Republican
In The Perfect Sword, a master swordsmith and his apprentice in feudal Japan forge a magnificent samurai blade. One after another, samurai warriors come to claim the sword, each candidate seemingly greater and worthier than the last, yet the swordsmith turns them all away. Watching and listening, the apprentice puzzles over why each applicant was rejected and discovers the qualities of a true hero. Vivid oil paintings combine contemporary art techniques with a traditional Japanese sensibility, creating a convincing cultural atmosphere in which today's children will be completely comfortable. The compelling cover will cause kids (boys, especially) to pick up the book, and the compelling plot will keep them reading. Despite its martial topic, the story demonstrates the strength of nonviolence. At the back of the book, the author provides background on sword making in ancient Japan and defines Japanese words used in the story.
School Library Journal
Told from the perspective of young Michio, a master swordsmith's apprentice, The Perfect Sword is a moral tale about the virtues that make a person worthy of something perfect. After Michio and his Sensei create the perfect sword (or, at least, as close to perfect as can exist), they interview many samurai, warriors, and nobles who want to possess it. But many are too selfish, or too privileged, or too cruel; it is only when they meet a samurai who is kind and selfless and dedicated to bettering himself that they find the proper owner. Goto inserts his readers directly into late-1500s Japan, giving them a feel for the culture and history. His vibrant oil paintings are detailed enough to keep readers poring over them, but large enough for group sharing. Some pages have no text, starting with the endpapers that show Michio getting ready for the day, and later setting the scene at the workshop or showing a martial arts move step-by-step across a full spread. Notes on the tradition of sword making and a glossary help readers to learn more about the world in which the story is set. This book is sure to attract browsers with its excellent illustrations and hold readers with its simple story, beautifully told.
Sensei Masa, master swordsmith, and his apprentice, Michio, spend countless hours fashioning a magnificent sword. They seek a perfect owner. A series of potential swordsmen show up--a samurai, a powerful lord, a ronin--and the succession leads the Sensei to teach his apprentice how to see the true worth of a man. This sequence of teaching lessons is a typical pattern of many tales.
Learn more about Japanese culture and samurai.
ISBN: 978-1-60734-138-3 PDF
Page count: 48
8 x 10