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The Sign of the Chrysanthemum

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Muna has never known his father -- a samurai, a noble warrior. But Muna's mother has told Muna how he will know him one day: by the sign of the chrysanthemum. When his mother dies, Muna travels to the capital of twelfth-century Japan, a bewildering city on the verge of revolution. He finds a haven there, as servant to the great swordsmith, Fukuji. But Muna cannot forget hi Muna has never known his father -- a samurai, a noble warrior. But Muna's mother has told Muna how he will know him one day: by the sign of the chrysanthemum. When his mother dies, Muna travels to the capital of twelfth-century Japan, a bewildering city on the verge of revolution. He finds a haven there, as servant to the great swordsmith, Fukuji. But Muna cannot forget his dream: He must find his father. Only then will he have power and a name to be reckoned with. Only then will he become a man.


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Muna has never known his father -- a samurai, a noble warrior. But Muna's mother has told Muna how he will know him one day: by the sign of the chrysanthemum. When his mother dies, Muna travels to the capital of twelfth-century Japan, a bewildering city on the verge of revolution. He finds a haven there, as servant to the great swordsmith, Fukuji. But Muna cannot forget hi Muna has never known his father -- a samurai, a noble warrior. But Muna's mother has told Muna how he will know him one day: by the sign of the chrysanthemum. When his mother dies, Muna travels to the capital of twelfth-century Japan, a bewildering city on the verge of revolution. He finds a haven there, as servant to the great swordsmith, Fukuji. But Muna cannot forget his dream: He must find his father. Only then will he have power and a name to be reckoned with. Only then will he become a man.

30 review for The Sign of the Chrysanthemum

  1. 5 out of 5

    Alice

    Another homeless apprentice learns responsibility, as he works with a master craftsman in Japan during the time of the samurais.(Do I sense a pattern in the books I've been reading lately?) Unfortunately for young Muna (which means No Name), his allegiance is divided between the kind swordsmith and an outlaw rogue, who seems to come nearer to fulfilling his dream of a role model. Eventually he repudiates the dark side of life and comes to an understanding of his identity, but not in the way he h Another homeless apprentice learns responsibility, as he works with a master craftsman in Japan during the time of the samurais.(Do I sense a pattern in the books I've been reading lately?) Unfortunately for young Muna (which means No Name), his allegiance is divided between the kind swordsmith and an outlaw rogue, who seems to come nearer to fulfilling his dream of a role model. Eventually he repudiates the dark side of life and comes to an understanding of his identity, but not in the way he had hoped. I was surprised that this book was placed in the juvenile department. The character is older, and the emotions and conflicts that he experiences are more complex. A sad loose end: the girl he likes is sold to a house of ill repute in what we might call the "red light district". Surely Muna would be able to effect her release, I thought--but after one try, he is beaten, and she is never seen again. Her contribution to the story is that now "he knew what happened to beautiful girls who were orphaned."

  2. 5 out of 5

    gabrielle darnell

    As usual, Katherine Paterson has written a story that speaks truly about the human heart. In her story about a bastard boy looking for his samurai father in feudal Japan, she shows that no matter the time, culture, or country, humans long for the same things -- identity, family, and honor. At the same time, The Sign of the Chrysanthemum is rich with detail about the unique characteristics of Japanese culture. This is not like the many corny Japanese samurai stories that have been written recentl As usual, Katherine Paterson has written a story that speaks truly about the human heart. In her story about a bastard boy looking for his samurai father in feudal Japan, she shows that no matter the time, culture, or country, humans long for the same things -- identity, family, and honor. At the same time, The Sign of the Chrysanthemum is rich with detail about the unique characteristics of Japanese culture. This is not like the many corny Japanese samurai stories that have been written recently for young adults. Patterson draws on her experiences of growing up in Asia to make this a novel of depth, historical accuracy, and truth.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Nikita

    didnt clearly understand the ending

  4. 5 out of 5

    Miri

    Another win in the historical fiction shelf. This book is a slow going stream compared to the books I normally read, slow but not unpleasant I enjoyed this book through and through.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kellyn

    The thirteen-year-old hero of this story, Mura, seeks to remove the stigma of his birth and his name. Mura means “No Name” and was given to Mura because his father deserted his unmarried mother before Mura was born. After Mura’s mother dies Mura travels to the capital of Japan to look for his father, a reputed samurai warrior. Paterson describes the culture, beauty and harshness of 12th century Japan. Mura faces many challenges and ethical dilemmas which Paterson resolves in surprising ways.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Hadiqa

    I understand the book is little confusing in some places and lacks dialogue. It was quiet boring in the beginning but when Muna grew up the story takes a different turn and becomes a little more interesting. The ending will make you like the book.. It's worth a try! I understand the book is little confusing in some places and lacks dialogue. It was quiet boring in the beginning but when Muna grew up the story takes a different turn and becomes a little more interesting. The ending will make you like the book.. It's worth a try!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    My favorite children's book. I read this so many times in the libraries growing up that I just about wore out the pages! Ms. Paterson brings Asian culture to life in this book. My favorite children's book. I read this so many times in the libraries growing up that I just about wore out the pages! Ms. Paterson brings Asian culture to life in this book.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Leexi

    i liked this book, though i still wonder what would have happened if muna had found his father...

  9. 5 out of 5

    Williamproctor

    this book was ok it wasnt that great and it was born.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Rayman

    The novel Sign of the Chrysanthemum depicts how growing up and always being an outcast for having the name Muna, later results in him searching for himself. The story shows how an outcast from society stows away on a ship to find his Father on the main island. We see how Muna is torn apart from the rogue Takunobu who was his first friend, versus the swordsmith Fukuji who took him in when he lost everything. The major characteristic of Tokanobu is how Muna finds out there was a fire and he though The novel Sign of the Chrysanthemum depicts how growing up and always being an outcast for having the name Muna, later results in him searching for himself. The story shows how an outcast from society stows away on a ship to find his Father on the main island. We see how Muna is torn apart from the rogue Takunobu who was his first friend, versus the swordsmith Fukuji who took him in when he lost everything. The major characteristic of Tokanobu is how Muna finds out there was a fire and he thought that he died, however, he is alive and now wants Muna back by saying that he is his father. We see how Muna is torn apart from seeing the father he always wanted, as opposed to the Father he thinks is his. As the book goes on we eventually see how the turmoil between two major power groups leads to a massive fight and eventually, Tokanobu dies, for his debt owed. The book then leaves openly with how Muna returns to Fukuji to be his apprentice, after stealing a sword which he used to fight within the battle. This book uses literary devices of symbolism and allegory, we see this through how the chrysanthemum tattoo represents optimism and a chance to find his father, as that was the only identifying object. We also see imagery though how the author expresses the underlying allegory of how you can be whoever you want. These devices help the plot by giving dramatic irony that his father may be dead and how Muna has to make a name for himself. Overall the book was good and was truly how much you put into it you got out. It had a lot of details and if you did not pay attention you may be lost very fast. It also poses a question upon yourself of how are you who you want to be or are you who people tell you to be. It was a solid read and I recommend to read it even though it isn't the best written, for its message and deep picture it paints.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Larinmtz

    A good, quick read, but don't be fooled by the size of the book: It's definitely a YA read, due to subject matter, rather than for the younger set. Other reviewers have mentioned the hopelessness they see in the book, and while there is a strong vein of hopelessness running through it, ultimately there is resolution (although I'm not going to give more detail, because spoilers and all that). Paterson does a good job of bringing the setting to life. Enjoyable. A good, quick read, but don't be fooled by the size of the book: It's definitely a YA read, due to subject matter, rather than for the younger set. Other reviewers have mentioned the hopelessness they see in the book, and while there is a strong vein of hopelessness running through it, ultimately there is resolution (although I'm not going to give more detail, because spoilers and all that). Paterson does a good job of bringing the setting to life. Enjoyable.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Camie

    Read it simultaneously with my sixth grade son. This was an school assignment. I think I read this story years ago because the storyline was familiar as it unfolded. Overall, an enjoyable read. Seemed rushed at the end. Not my favorite book by this author.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Anjalica

    A story of harsh reality and it was a tear jerker for me. Great story. The name of his father the importance it was to him.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Elaine

    By author of "bridge to terabithia ," well written about a japanese boy looking for his father. By author of "bridge to terabithia ," well written about a japanese boy looking for his father.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Rain Misoa

    Oi... my head... not to say that this book is horrible. It was an okay read. However, what I don't like about a lot of Paterson's novels is the lack of hope. Basically, this novel was no different. I wanted to read this book because, even though I've read other books of hers and I noticed the recurring theme, I thought since this was her first novel and it was about Japan (my favorite country) it was going to be different. Unfortunately, I was wrong. I usually find that I have no problems with th Oi... my head... not to say that this book is horrible. It was an okay read. However, what I don't like about a lot of Paterson's novels is the lack of hope. Basically, this novel was no different. I wanted to read this book because, even though I've read other books of hers and I noticed the recurring theme, I thought since this was her first novel and it was about Japan (my favorite country) it was going to be different. Unfortunately, I was wrong. I usually find that I have no problems with the writing style of authors. That's not the case with Katherine Paterson. Though having a nice grasp of putting words together to paint a beautiful scene, she lacks transitions. She would start off in one area of the setting and then, before you know it, you're somewhere else entirely. There were parts in the book where you had to re-read a paragraph in order to know that the scene had change. The same thing could be said about the mood. There's one particular scene where one of the characters was being forceful and smug then, without much notice, that same character was being cowardly the next sentence over without any reason. It was far too confusing and not very well explained for any reader to follow or even care. Story-wise... the book was poor. It follows a boy trying to locate his father so he can make a name for himself. It might have worked if only there was actual searching going on. No, nothing happens. The boy decides to make excuses for what's going on and then, enter hopeless message here. It dragged on to get absolutely no where and just made me want to slap someone out of shere annoyance. The only part I liked about the story was the Japanese aspect of it. You get to learn a lot about the Heian era in Japan from little snippets of court life to how women where changed into geisha and even what happened with beggars. There's even mention about the war between the Genji and the Heike. However, these come in small amounts and not enough detail so even this part of the book is lacking. (Not to mention there are various typoes on Japanese names.) -_-" Not all the characters are horrible. Muna, the main character, was a very sweet boy. His name means "No Name" and it is one of the many reasons why he decides to find his father to make a name for himself. I do sympathize with him even though he makes a lot of stupid decisions. He is easily manipulated and has issues with making decisions for himself. It makes me upset that by the end of the book, you feel that he came to a decision that Paterson gives to all her characters. That being "Life sucks. Deal with it." There's this other character called Takanobu. He was Muna's first friend when he arrives in the city and I adored him! He's fun, quirky, free-spirited; he had all the qualities I like in my characters. But Paterson destroyed him! He had so much promise and then you see him get slowly corrupted. It makes me sad. There's a bunch of side characters that suffer a similar fate. Kawaki, Akiko, even Fukuji, though not a side character, gets betrayed and all you want is to hold him to your bosom and say, "All this will be fine. I'll love you!" Although, to be fair to Paterson, I did feel that Fukuji, this kind elderly swordsmith, was the only one to find a happy ending. He was the only one I felt was able to find peace with what his position brought about him. I wish the same could be said about the other characters. Put briefly, the novel was okay. The message in it is dull and non-inventive but there's some parts of it that was good enough to keep one reading until the very end. You feel bad for a lot of the characters and there's not much of a story... and it's down right depressing in some areas. However, you do get some of the Japanese history and not all the characters suffer a tremendous loss so it's not all tears. I wouldn't recommend children reading this. There was some adult themes, though well hidden, that appear in this book. (Prostitution being one of them) My suggestion is that you check this one out of the library first before you decide to buy it. It'll save you a few dollars that can be spent on donuts. *Nods*

  16. 5 out of 5

    Eli

    I have strong memories of hating this book when I read it in 5th grade. It was most likely because I couldn't relate to the main character, but I remember being really bored. Probably warrants another go, but this rating is based on my memory of my 5th grade self. I have strong memories of hating this book when I read it in 5th grade. It was most likely because I couldn't relate to the main character, but I remember being really bored. Probably warrants another go, but this rating is based on my memory of my 5th grade self.

  17. 5 out of 5

    s. decosse

    Written with an immersion in the ancient culture of the samurai's, the book is a probably unique and gripping story of a yonug teen, who , a peasant, loses his mother and has an unknown father who, his mother told him had a chrysanthemum tattooed on his shoulder and was a samuarai. THe boy hides on a ship to Kyoto where he meets a rough street man protector< Takanobo. In Kyoto, MANU, the boy starves and struggles and is helped by some. At the age of 15, he feels he should be treated as a man, bu Written with an immersion in the ancient culture of the samurai's, the book is a probably unique and gripping story of a yonug teen, who , a peasant, loses his mother and has an unknown father who, his mother told him had a chrysanthemum tattooed on his shoulder and was a samuarai. THe boy hides on a ship to Kyoto where he meets a rough street man protector< Takanobo. In Kyoto, MANU, the boy starves and struggles and is helped by some. At the age of 15, he feels he should be treated as a man, but goes forth and makes ethical and stupid mistakes. Eventually, mostly through the kindness of poor people and the aide of one craftsman,, he matures to a strong, humorous young person. As a writer myself, I noticed both the fine character readings and also, inconsistencies in the plot. Learned later, this was the first novel of this fine novelist.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Julia

    Summary: Young, Muna, a.k.a., no name, had borded a boat to find his father. he had gotten off the boat, at the Capital after making a friend, Takanobu. They would always meet at the Red Dog, along with some of Takanobu's friends. One night, while Muna was out, a fire was uproared while Takanobu was there. Muna had thought everyone had died, so he went in the smoking building to try and find them. He came out and the next thing he new, he was in a swordmakers shop. He began his life there with o Summary: Young, Muna, a.k.a., no name, had borded a boat to find his father. he had gotten off the boat, at the Capital after making a friend, Takanobu. They would always meet at the Red Dog, along with some of Takanobu's friends. One night, while Muna was out, a fire was uproared while Takanobu was there. Muna had thought everyone had died, so he went in the smoking building to try and find them. He came out and the next thing he new, he was in a swordmakers shop. He began his life there with out Takanobu. He would once in a while do jobs for Fukuji, and visit his old friends, Kawaki and Akaki. One time he went there, he realized that Kawaki had gotten ill and Akaki was taking care of him. When he was leaving one day, some man started following Muna. He stopped his tracks and turned to look at the man. It was Takanobu. He is alive. Compare: Text to World: The S of C is about a boy trying to find his dad, and losing friends along the way. Some people these days are trying to find themselves, or family members, in order to be happy. Many people lose people close to them, like the victims of 9/11. Muna finds a friend to stay with, so he can continue his journey to find his dad. He wants to find his dad, so he can have a parent to be with, and so he can fill in the blanks of his life. Many people are in search of life and things that can help them. The S of C is just like our world. I read from page 54-72 and I read 105 pages of the Daughters.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Eugenie

    NY, Harper and Row, 1973 Katherine Paterson writes of a teenager coming to know himself through contacts with social ills and political unrest while searching for his father in Japan's capital, centuries ago. She does a wonderful job of developing the boy's character as the story unfolds. It is suspenseful and a bit heart wretching as the reader learns of the social injustices that occur. It is fraught with many of the harsh realities of that time but it also includes beauty and excitement. This NY, Harper and Row, 1973 Katherine Paterson writes of a teenager coming to know himself through contacts with social ills and political unrest while searching for his father in Japan's capital, centuries ago. She does a wonderful job of developing the boy's character as the story unfolds. It is suspenseful and a bit heart wretching as the reader learns of the social injustices that occur. It is fraught with many of the harsh realities of that time but it also includes beauty and excitement. This would be a wonderful selection to use in teaching a multicultural unit. Many facets of Japanese culture are mentioned and some are shown in the pen and ink illustrations. There are themes that could be explored: honor, identity, family, trust, friendship, etc. Overall, I enjoyed this book and was drawn in to the story.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Avery

    This book was good. Some of the book was kind of was really boring. I dont want to say why because I dont want to ruin it for anyone. But it was kind of confusing because the names in the book are in Japenesse. So i couldnt pronounce some of the words. In the beginnig Muna the main character's mother dies. And to him thats his chance to finally go out and try to find his father the Samurai. So Muna goes and hides on a cargo hip. Once the boat stops he heads to the Capital...... (a lot of chapters This book was good. Some of the book was kind of was really boring. I dont want to say why because I dont want to ruin it for anyone. But it was kind of confusing because the names in the book are in Japenesse. So i couldnt pronounce some of the words. In the beginnig Muna the main character's mother dies. And to him thats his chance to finally go out and try to find his father the Samurai. So Muna goes and hides on a cargo hip. Once the boat stops he heads to the Capital...... (a lot of chapters later) Muna steals the sword for Fukuji and attempts to give it to Takanobu because he said he was Munas father. But when he gives it to him, Takanobu laughes at Muna. (a few chapters later) The End

  21. 5 out of 5

    Melissa Namba

    I actually really enjoyed this book and the only reason that it didn't get five stars was because it occasionally lost my interest. This is a great book for kids interested in Medieval Japanese Samurai culture because it shows a lot about the lives of the serfs who lived and supported the samurai culture. There are factional wars between families of samurai and there is a ronin as a supporting character so a child would learn about the ronin lifestyle, which is nowhere as glamorous as the Keanu I actually really enjoyed this book and the only reason that it didn't get five stars was because it occasionally lost my interest. This is a great book for kids interested in Medieval Japanese Samurai culture because it shows a lot about the lives of the serfs who lived and supported the samurai culture. There are factional wars between families of samurai and there is a ronin as a supporting character so a child would learn about the ronin lifestyle, which is nowhere as glamorous as the Keanu Reeves movie might have you think. It's also a coming of age story about a boy named Muna, who has just lost his mother and will be reaching "manhood" without either parent. I love the patience of Fukuji, who in my mind was a little like Mr. Miyagi.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Dean

    I liked this book, it had a lot of great detail that helped me picture the setting but I couldn't help but think that nothing goes this guys way. I mean first he's discovered on the ship, then the Ronin guy supposedly dies and he almost does but comes away with a fever, then he gets beat up trying to save his almost sort of girl friend from a bad place, and to top it all off his Ronin friend betrays him leaving Muna (still no name) to wander the streets like a beggar. I men come on! I've had bet I liked this book, it had a lot of great detail that helped me picture the setting but I couldn't help but think that nothing goes this guys way. I mean first he's discovered on the ship, then the Ronin guy supposedly dies and he almost does but comes away with a fever, then he gets beat up trying to save his almost sort of girl friend from a bad place, and to top it all off his Ronin friend betrays him leaving Muna (still no name) to wander the streets like a beggar. I men come on! I've had better luck on Friday the 13th than this guy has from day to day. But still I liked this book anyway. -Dean's opinion

  23. 5 out of 5

    Max

    I liked the setting, feudal Japan. The story gave a good overall description of the times. I did feel as though I learned about the history of that era, which was left out of our social science class. This was a required read for seventh grade language arts and something I wouldn't have chosen to read myself. It was below my level of reading and that may have soured my opinion. I never felt a connection with the main character, Muna. I disliked him and if that was the author's intention, then she I liked the setting, feudal Japan. The story gave a good overall description of the times. I did feel as though I learned about the history of that era, which was left out of our social science class. This was a required read for seventh grade language arts and something I wouldn't have chosen to read myself. It was below my level of reading and that may have soured my opinion. I never felt a connection with the main character, Muna. I disliked him and if that was the author's intention, then she did a good job. I was surprised to find out that Katerine Paterson also wrote "Bridge to Terebithia."

  24. 5 out of 5

    Alistair Hayne

    the book was about a orphan named Muna who sets out to find his father, which he has no idea what he looks like all he knows is his dad has a tattoo on his shoulder of the chrysanthemum. Muna sneaks on to a ship and meets up with a ronin samurai named Takanobu and they travels around the city together in search for his father, some stuff happend and muna and takanobu split up for a bit and muna get taken into a sword makers home named fukuji and his daughter. I read the book because mr.bean made the book was about a orphan named Muna who sets out to find his father, which he has no idea what he looks like all he knows is his dad has a tattoo on his shoulder of the chrysanthemum. Muna sneaks on to a ship and meets up with a ronin samurai named Takanobu and they travels around the city together in search for his father, some stuff happend and muna and takanobu split up for a bit and muna get taken into a sword makers home named fukuji and his daughter. I read the book because mr.bean made me, and I recomend this book to 0 people. thank you for reading m8...

  25. 5 out of 5

    Äññå

    The book is good and well written. It has a good plot and has action parts throughout the book. The ending is a twist. I don't want to say it because maybe some people our still reading the book. am still reading the book. I just heard the ending from someone. The book never goes Muna's way though. He has a roller coaster like life with lots of downfalls. Overall, I would recommend this book to an older person. The book is good and well written. It has a good plot and has action parts throughout the book. The ending is a twist. I don't want to say it because maybe some people our still reading the book. am still reading the book. I just heard the ending from someone. The book never goes Muna's way though. He has a roller coaster like life with lots of downfalls. Overall, I would recommend this book to an older person.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    Good and very interesting to get a look at Japanese culture from the perspective of a young boy with no name or family who is coming of age in a time when your name and family meant everything. Not as good as her others but entertaining. I might rather watch a movie of it than read it again.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    Short good story about a young boy that doesn't know who his father is and his mother dies. He goes out and tries to find his father he meets some interesting people on the way. I wish that it was longer and told more of his life later on but it was very well written. Short good story about a young boy that doesn't know who his father is and his mother dies. He goes out and tries to find his father he meets some interesting people on the way. I wish that it was longer and told more of his life later on but it was very well written.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Tricia

    This book is rich with the history of feudal Japan, and the story has an interesting tension. However, the underlying concepts seem more appropriate for older teens (definitely not tweens) - I just think they'll understand the emotions better. This book is rich with the history of feudal Japan, and the story has an interesting tension. However, the underlying concepts seem more appropriate for older teens (definitely not tweens) - I just think they'll understand the emotions better.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl

    Excellent story of Japanese orphan searing for his samurai father in 12th century feudal Japan. Peterson lived in China and Japan for some time, and seemed to bring a knowledge of the culture. Also spoke true to a boy who idolizes an absent father who doesn't live up to expectations. Excellent story of Japanese orphan searing for his samurai father in 12th century feudal Japan. Peterson lived in China and Japan for some time, and seemed to bring a knowledge of the culture. Also spoke true to a boy who idolizes an absent father who doesn't live up to expectations.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Skylar Newbury

    This book was so horrible.I had to read it for my English class.It really made no sense I mean I understood it but it was going all over the place, Muna was such a flirt and stupid and not to talk about ugly. I do not like how this author writes DO NO READ IT.

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