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I’ve had this happen a couple of times now.... I read a book with my boy and we both enjoy it. Then I meet the author, rave to him (always a him) about how we loved it… bring my son over to Meet the Author!, and he has no memory of the book. Sigh. This one I went back and re-read with him after the incident, and he begged for the sequel.

Mail Order NinjaMail Order Ninja by Joshua Elder. Illustrated by Erich Owen.

Timmy McAllister has a tough life. He’s bullied on the way to school, rich mean girl Felicity Huntington makes the life of anyone who isn’t willing to be her toady miserable there, and at home, his bratty little sister is determined to make their parents declare her their favorite. What’s a boy to do? He orders famous ninja Yoshida Jiro from the Jacques Co. catalog. (Timmy is familiar with Jiro from reading the manga series about him.) With Jiro backing him up, bullies are no longer a problem, and Timmy is cool enough to defeat Felicity in the race for school president, making the school safe for nerds everywhere! In volume two, though, Felicity orders a whole evil ninja clan from the same catalog and takes over the town. Jiro is defeated, the adults all brainwashed, and it’s up to Timmy (and the bratty sister and his best friend) to save the day. The whole thing is filled with references to things like classic sci-fi that will make adults smile without being inappropriate. It’s illustrated with expressive and perky manga-style drawings. These hilarious, high-action books are perfect for elementary school-aged boys, but it’s safe to say they’d find fans with a much broader audience. Sadly, they are out of print, so check your local library or order your second-hand copy now.
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I brought this home for my six-year-old – ninjas are big in his set right now. But the two-year-old loves it, so I get the incredible joy of her toddling over to me with the book saying, “Ninzha! Ninzha!”

book coverNinja Cowboy Bear Presents: the Way of the Ninja by David Bruins. Pictures by Hilary Leung. The ninja, the cowboy, and the bear are all friends. Usually they have a great time together, but “One day, the ninja’s ways came between him and his friends. This is what happened.” There is a moral, of course – the ninja wants to play with his friends, but only his way. When they don’t want to play his extremely active, often injury-inducing way, he goes off to play by himself. You can guess the message, of course, but the telling is delightful. The language is the perfect combination of concise yet formal, giving the simple story an epic feel. The art is brightly rounded and looks digitally created, each character with a distinctive style. When the text describes the characters talking, they’ll be shown with thought or speech bubbles filled with descriptive pictures rather than text. The ninja’s has kanji alongside the beautiful Japanese-style pictures in his thought bubbles. (Transliteration and translation are both supplied on the copyright page, for those who don’t read kanji.) In this book, the ninja’s detailed half-page picture descriptions of what he’d like to do with his friends contrast vividly with his friends’ tiny black and white ideas. Small bluebirds around the edges of the page give occasional one-picture commentary on the action. In the end – hooray! – the ninja finds a way to work the action and adventure he craves into the activities his friends want to do. The only caveat that I have to give for this book is that it is not for bedtime reading. I was alone with the kiddos the evening I brought this home from the library, and kept hearing loud thunks from downstairs while I was trying to put the toddler to sleep. It transpired that my son had been inspired by the book to try great ninja leaps across the living room. Otherwise, this book is perfection.

Read more about the triumvirate of Ninja, Cowboy and Bear in these books:

The Legend of Ninja Cowboy Bear
Ninja Cowboy Bear Presents: The Call of the Cowboy


Aug. 4th, 2010 02:44 pm
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book coverWink: The Ninja Who Wanted to Be Noticed by J.C. Phillips. Wink has always wanted to be a ninja, but when he finally is admitted to ninja school, he keeps getting into trouble. His kicking and jumping skills are fine, but he has difficulty with the silent and stealthy part. Every day, he returns home dejected and listens to advice from his grandmother over their evening tea. Finally, he finds a career where he fits in perfectly. The bright illustrations appear to be either cut from patterned paper or computer graphics and suit the story perfectly. I have met many young children enamored of martial arts, and never yet met one who really mastered the silent and stealthy aspect, making this book perfect for young would-be ninjas.


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