- Ninja by Arree Chung
A ninja’s full array of skills—stealth, surprise, agility—are on display in this picture book; our nameless hero cunningly uses a paddleball to fend off the family dog as he launches a sneak attack on his napping dad and employs a jump rope to scale his way to the kitchen island for cookies and milk. His younger sister watches him gleefully, and when her attempt to imitate the impressive acrobatics falls flat (literally), our ninja earns a (wordless) scolding … but is inspired to train the young one in his learned art. Spreads include geometric backgrounds that experiment with perspective, providing a manga-like reading experience and breaking up the text into short, choppy chunks that evoke the tightness associated with ninja films. That choppiness, however, carries over into the narrative, with disparate scenes cobbled together and an ending that, though heartwarming, doesn’t satisfactorily complete the story. Digitally assembled acrylic and found paper manifests a modern home with Japanese touches—sliding doors that look like they could be rice paper and ikebana arrangements—while our ninja has a exaggerated roundedness [End Page 15] with precisely circular eyes and a button nose that, though comical, clashes with the more sophisticated tone. The grandeur of the glowing dragon that activates in the background when ninja powers are being used is breathtaking, though, and a mostly black spread with our narrator’s head hung perfectly captures the shame of a dishonored kid/warrior. Despite its flaws, this could have some rambunctious draw, perhaps for a clad-in-black storytime when paired with Phillipps’ Wink: The Ninja Who Wanted to Be Noticed (BCCB 6/09).