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Samurai Kids #1: White Crane Paperback – May 10, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 5-7–Friendship triumphs in this Australian import set in feudal Japan. Niya Moto and his friends all struggle with a disadvantage in their samurai training: he is missing a leg, and his fellow students are missing an arm, are blind, have extra fingers and toes, or refuse to fight. But by putting faith in their friendship and following the quiet wisdom of their sensei, they discover they can triumph against the odds. Filled with Zen-sounding aphorisms, the book has moments of sheer cleverness, making the obvious themes easier to swallow. The style seems geared toward struggling readers, and the setting is sure to appeal to samurai vs. ninja fans who aren't too concerned about historical accuracy. Some details, such as sword making and bushido philosophy, seem well grounded in the period, while major plot designs, such as training children with missing limbs to be samurai, come across as utterly inaccurate, and Niya sounds like a modern Western narrator. Still, the depiction of children overcoming the physical odds is positive. Black-and-white illustrations enhance the storytelling, and the little bit of Japanese sprinkled in is well explained.Alana Joli Abbott, James Blackstone Memorial Library, Branford, CT
© Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Four, later five teen samurai—most with physical differences—beat the odds at the annual Samurai Trainee Games in this opener to the Samurai Kids series. Once a mighty warrior but now an old man who seemingly prefers to doze in the shade, sensei Ki-Yaga has invited an unlikely crew to his Cockroach Ryu (school) for instruction in the arts and ethics of Bushido. As seen through the eyes of one-legged narrator Niya Moto, that instruction involves more horseplay than hard practice with pink-eyed Kyoko, who has extra digits on her hands and feet; one-armed Mikko; blind Taji; and other schoolmates—but the Cockroaches display sufficient spirit and teamwork to emerge triumphant in the games over the sneering Dragons. Though not exactly filled with wall-to-wall action like Jeff Stone's Five Ancestors series, the tale is lightened by pratfalls and wry bits of “wisdom” (“He who remembers what Bushido teaches will never miss out on great desserts”) and is threaded with information about traditional samurai values. James' Japanese-style spot art and tableaus at the plot's high points supply martial-arts atmosphere. Grades 5-8. --John Peters --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 9 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 4 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 590L (What's this?)
  • Series: Samurai Kids (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Candlewick; Reprint edition (May 10, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0763653462
  • ISBN-13: 978-0763653460
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #884,257 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I am a mum, a children's author and a computer programmer. Much to my surprise, the three go together very well. I love to read - anything and everything - but children's and young adult titles are my favourite.

Growing up in a house with few books, I discovered reading and the library when I started school. I studied hard because books were given as academic prizes.

I began writing in 2002 when one of my children stopped reading. A mother-son writing project ended with me being told to "go write your own book". I did and have been doing so ever since.

Check out my blogspot http://sandyfussell.blogspot.com/
Website http://www.sandyfussell.com/
Samurai Kids Website http://www.samuraikids.com.au/

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Susan on September 2, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Sometimes it's hard to choose the right book for your kids. They want active, exciting stories, written in a kid's voice. Parents might prefer a children's story with something worthwhile to say, and without swearing or gratuitous violence. Finding a book that gets the balance right in appealing to both kids and their parents is no easy task. This book gets it exactly right!

Samurai Kids, Book 1: White Crane, was written by Sandy Fussell, and published by Walker Books. I'd recommend this book to kids over eight, particularly those with an interest in martial arts or who want lots of action, humour and tension in their books.

It's about a group of misfit kids who want to be Samurai warriors. They are the Little Cockroaches, under the tutelage of their sensei, Ki-Yaga. The narrator is Niya Moto, a boy with one leg. Despite their disabilities, or sometimes because of their disabilities, the Samurai kids want to prove to themselves and those who despise them that they are worthy of the title Samurai Warrior.

It's a novel, but White Crane is also illustrated beautifully by Rhian Nest James. The occasional line drawings and chapter banners add a wonderful Asian "flavour" to the book, and are reminders of authentic Japanese/Chinese art work. The book would make an excellent choice as a resource for students studying culture, or for anyone who wants to encourage tolerance and respect as key human values. There's even a Samurai Kids website, with lots of added extras and fun stuff for kids to do.

Apart from it being a rattling good adventure story, with characters you feel like you know, White Crane also impressed me because of Sandy Fussell's meticulous attention to detail.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Reading in Color on August 17, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Niya is such an entertaining main character. I found some of the humor in this book to be a little juvenile, but it's perfect for kids in middle school and younger (4th or 5th grade). He is unafraid to poke fun at himself, however he also teases the kids at his Ryu and his teacher. I would have preferred less explanation of everything that the samurai did, I think readers can figure it out from the context, but I know there are readers who might be more impatient and don't want to have to look things up. One thing I didn't understand was the spirit animals (Niya's is the white crane). I couldn't figure out if the spirit animals were real or if the kids simply referred to their spirit animals to give them courage.

Just when you start to think the ending will be predictable, the author slices (with a samurai sword of course) your predictable thoughts and inserts a fun twist in the end. The artwork was very well done. Each chapter has a relatively simple illustration to start it off, along with one full picture in each chapter. What I found most interesting was how tasteful the drawings of the students were. There's no gore or anything, in some pictures you can see Niya's one leg or Mikko's one arm but for the most part the missing body part is artfully hidden. The pictures are in black and white which suits the book more and the illustrations added to the fun and vivid imagery of the story.

White Crane is an engaging story set in feudal Japan when the rules of the samurai are slowly changing to become more modern. There is a lot of struggle going on between teachers vs. students and students vs. students over what traditions should stay and what should go. I love that the author gave each of these students disabilities that were seemingly impossible to overcome.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By X. Hao on November 4, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Niya is missing a leg, Mikko is missing an arm, Taji is blind, Kyoko has pink eyes, 6 fingers and toes and white hair, and Yoshi is a strong man who does not want to fight... can these students become great samarai warriors??
This action packed, humerous book is about these warriors who has disabilities going to the Trainee Samarai Games.On the way while they train, they meet many things,like seeing the fiercies Ox,Black Tusk, rolling off a cliff etc.
They have never won yet, so they train more than ever, and there sensei the legendary Ki-Yaga is training them very wisely, maybe so wise its weird! This year they have the Gembaku, the coming of age ceremony, where they get there katana and wakizashi, (blade and dagger),will they win the games?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By HappyReader on August 27, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I picked up this book by accident. A friend had recommended another samurai series, but I couldn't remember the name. It was not the intended book, but I found a treasure!

I read it aloud to my 7 yo son, and we were both enthralled. As previous reviewers have said, there is plenty of humor, action, and adventure---just perfect for a young boy!

What I've not read in previous reviews is just how beautifully written these books are! It's absolutely lovely, almost poetic.

And the themes are marvelous: teamwork, overcoming adversity, integrity, honor, courage. I think my favorite line in this book is the one in which Niya questions why another child will be invited to be in the Cockroach school the next year when he is able-bodied. Sensei responded so wonderfully. Something to the effect of---Silly boy, I didn't choose you for what you were missing. I choose my students by what they have inside them---great stuff. And such a marvelous message for everyone.

Needless to say, we will read them all!
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