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!”
Ninja 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