Thursday, June 5, 2014

Book Review: Ninja by Arree Chung

As readers of this blog are undoubtedly aware, I am the mom to two boys. Two active boys who, over the years, have dressed up as super heroes, Star Wars characters, cowboys, villains, and even ninjas. This might explain why I enjoyed Arree Chung’s new picture book, Ninja, so much.

In Ninja, Maxwell believes with his heart that he is a ninja. He dresses the part, complete with dish gloves, a ninja (jump) rope, and a ninja paddle (truly a paddle with a rubber ball attached.) He sneaks through his house, leaping, hiding, creeping to the kitchen where he spots cookies. After an accident involving his sister, he is dishonored. He comes back and realizes he might have a higher calling – educating his sister in the ways of the ninja.

I adored this book. Maxwell is so serious in his role of a ninja, but also so much fun to read. I loved watching him leap across panels, gather his gear, and ride off with his sister. But, as always with any book, I was curious as to what kids would think.

My sons and my students had similar reactions to this book. In both cases, I simply left the book out, but hadn’t had a chance to book talk it yet. My boys and my students gravitated towards this picture book on their own. It is interesting to watch them examine a picture book. I have to believe the cover grabbed them. Each child would then open it, look at the flaps, read a page – all as if they were just mildly interested and might put it back. After reading the first page, the kids would sink to the floor, and read the entire book – smiling and laughing as they went. The true test to whether they enjoy a book follows: books they like or find interesting usually end with them closing the book and returning it to the shelf. Books they really love get passed off to a friend – which is exactly what happened with Ninja.

When I asked kids what they liked about it, there answers were as follows:

-       I loved the illustrations. They reminded me of a favorite picture book growing up, No, David.
-       I like how Maxwell used his imagination.
-       I loved the page where Maxwell had all of the ninja gear laid out. It was funny to see what he was using.
-       I liked how serious Maxwell took being a ninja. I remember believing I was something when I was a kid too. (Note from me – love when ten year olds talk about when they were a kid.)
-       I liked the two pages where Maxwell leaps up to get milk. It was like a graphic novel.
-       I liked that several pages had panels like a graphic novel.
-       I liked that the last page left me wondering – will he write a book about the sister and Maxwell as ninjas?

This is a fun and sweet picture book that I’m glad my students enjoyed as well. I think next year I’ll use it in a mini-lesson and then ask my students to write a short memory about when they dressed up or believed they were something/ someone else back when “they were kids.” J