Book Review: “Thrump-O-Moto (The Little Samurai)” by James Clavell (1976)

Designed and Illustrated by George Sharp

Friends have often recommended James Clavell to me, in part because I tend to be a heavy reader and his books are beyond heavy reading, and in part because I am quite obviously fascinated by all things Asian. I have been purchasing every Clavell novel I’ve seen since then in anticipation of having the time read his epic series, so when I came across this short book for youth, I went ahead and dove right in. I was a little surprised by the fantastic elements of Thrump-O-Moto, but it is actually a story that kind of grows on a reader.

The story is that of a young disabled Australian girl whose afternoon dream takes her to Japan and beyond with the help of a tiny Japanese wizard-in-training named Thrump-O-Moto. Through their adventures which happen to last for years (though really only the length of an afternoon nap), little Patricia learns to defeat the evil monster, Nurk-u, who has been both the cause and the sustainer of her disability. In the end, Patricia overcomes her need for crutches. Thrump-O-Moto becomes an improved wizard. And Mr. Charley Rednosebeerdrinker stays as happily hammered as ever. It is quite a story.

I know less about Japan than I do about most other Asian countries, and while I have been looking forward to Clavell’s keen knowledge and writing abilities to clue me in to its history eventually, I just don’t think that Thrump-O-Moto is a good starting place for this. As far as fantasy goes, it’s a swell book. The story moves right along with action, moral lessons, and just enough ‘weird’ to make you want to persist, but fantasy is about all this book is. But I’m sure that’s how Clavell intended it.

I am not sure I would recommend this book to parents. There are really much better children’s stories out there in which you don’t have to deal with anything questionable. Reading with children in mind, one cannot help but notice that Clavell’s adults love their sake, wine, and beer. While little Patricia admits she’s not old enough to drink, the adults sure are, a boy do they ever. There seems to be no real point to Clavell’s adding all the booze to the story unless he wrote the whole book while under the influence, which, now that I really consider it, was probably the case.

©2012 E.T.

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