Margi Preus, whose novel, Heart of a Samurai, has just received a 2011 Newbery Honor, is on her way to becoming a media celebrity in Japan. In November, a television crew from NHK, the Japanese Broadcasting Corp.—the largest public broadcast network in Japan, serving 38 million Japanese households—visited Preus’s hometown of Duluth, Minn., to film a segment, featuring her speaking with students at a local middle school about Heart of a Samurai. The crew also interviewed several of the students, asking them about their reaction to the novel, which they’d read as a fifth-grade class assignment. The segment aired twice on the program “Ohayo Nippon” [Good Morning Japan] on the morning of January 18, before an audience estimated at 10 million.
And NHK isn’t done with Preus. On January 26, the network is flying her from Duluth to its studio in New York City, where Preus will be interviewed again—this time, via live satellite—by a Japanese television journalist in Tokyo. The English-language program, “Newsline,” will air live on the NHK World Service channel in the morning hours in Japan. NHK World Service programs are broadcast internationally on cable and streamed live on the Internet, before a worldwide audience of millions.
It’s not yet confirmed, but Preus may do a second interview while in New York, this time for a Japanese-only television audience. This program will air live in the evening hours in Japan.
“Manjiro [the protagonist in Heart of a Samurai] is very well-known in Japanese history,” explained Miki Ebara, chief correspondent for NHK’s New York bureau. “This story has an international impact; it’s an educational story that involves Japanese culture and touches people in the U.S. and in Japan.”
Ebara added that Japanese television viewers are interested in knowing more about Preus’s Newbery Honor and her reactions to receiving such recognition from the ALA for her work. Even though Japanese-language rights to Heart of a Samurai have not yet been sold, several Japanese publishing houses have expressed an interest.
Heart of a Samurai is Preus’s first novel for children; she has also written two picture books: Legend of the Lady Slipper, with Lise Lunge-Larsen, illustrated by Andrea Arroyo; and The Peace Bell, illustrated by Hideko Takahashi.
Meanwhile, despite public complaints by booklovers, including a Facebook page with 1,200 fans, “Campaign to Bring 2011 Newbery and Caldecott Winners to the Today Show," neither Erin Stead, this year’s Caldecott Medalist, nor Clare Vanderpool, this year’s Newbery Medalist, have yet to be interviewed on national television.