The Time Warp Trio: Sam Samurai

by Jon Scieszka

Discussion and Activities

For pre-reading ideas and background information on modern fantasy and its conventions, see Around the World in 80 Books: A Multicultural Guide.

When Joe, Fred, and Sam refer to their teacher, Ms. Basho, they have no idea that she bears the name of the first great poet in the history of haiku poetry. Influenced by the 4th century philosopher, Tchouang-tseu, Matsuo Basho (1644-1695) asserted that things seemingly useless held real value, and that the right way of life was not to go against its natural laws. Share the following haiku written by Basho in the traditional 5-7-5 format. Discuss the happiness, sadness, depression, or confusion expressed in these dramatic poems.

Temple bells die out.
The fragrant blossoms remain
A perfect evening.

From all directions
Winds bring petals of cherry
Into the Grebe Lake.

Using Internet or library resources, have students research the life and poetry of Issa, another great haiku master, and compare this life and work to Basho's. Then, following in the tradition of Ms. Basho's homework assignment, have your students write haiku of their own; or have them connect their verses into the larger poetry form called renga.

When Joe and his buddies come face to faceplate with a Samurai warrior, they step into the feudal society of 17th century Japan, in which people were divided into four classes: Samurai, farmer, artisan, and merchant. Using Internet and library resources, including Knights of the Kitchen Table, from this series, compare the code and the role of a Samurai warrior in the rigid hierarchical order of feudal Japan, with those of a knight in medieval Europe. Venn diagrams may be used to visually depict similarities and differences between these two times, places, and types of warriors, who occupied such an important place in their society.

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