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Samurai Kids #1: White Crane Hardcover – August 10, 2010
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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.
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
Top customer reviews
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!
This was the lament I heard from my son last month. I wasn't aware of this lack, but once I started looking I realized he was right, there aren't many Samurai/Ninja books for middle grade readers.
I found this one just by combining samurai/children books, but was wary of buying it, my son is notoriously picky about books, so I made him read the excerpt. A few minutes later I heard him yell, I rushed back into the room and he said, "I must have this book, I have to find out what happens next!"
Well, he really enjoyed the story, especially the ending. It also inspired him to look up things online; kitana, dojo, sensei and rice pudding (weird, but he really likes pudding). He said the competition reminded him a little of Toph's school of metalbending (from Avatar the Last Airbender).
All in all a fun and fast book that I highly recommend for kids, I took a look at the book and think the reading level is for 10-12 year olds.