When "Sarah, Plain and Tall" by Patricia MacLachlan (Harper & Row) was named winner of the 1986 Newbery Medal, the award committee also named two Honor Books, one a novel set in the modern Arctic, and the other an account of Japan during the 19th Century.
"Commodore Perry" is a handsome coffee tablelike book, rich with Japanese art and history that will appeal as much to a child's visual pleasure as anything else. In scholarly but not intimidating prose, Blumberg recounts how, in 1853, four U.S. naval ships with 560 men anchored near the fishing village of Shimoda, to the terror of its natives who called the Americans "hairy barbarians." What follows are delicious details about this isolated nation which at the time was in its Tokugawa Period: a medieval feudal society where customs, laws and fashions hadn't changed for 250 years, and where foreigners were barred. After Perry's delicate negotiations, a treaty was signed, and the two cultures could finally mingle with mutual curiosity.
These pages and margins are gracefully filled with drawings done by artists from the Perry expedition as well as reproductions from Japanese scrolls. A bibliography, five appendices, notes and index plump this into a fine volume worthy of anyone's bookshelf, child or adult.