Monday, 2 March 2009

Samurai Kids: White Crane / Sandy Fussell

Summary - Can a one-legged boy train to become a great samurai warrior?

Niya Moto is the only one-legged Samurai kid in Japan, famous for falling flat on his face in the dirt. None of the samurai schools will teach crippled Niya, until an offer arrives from the legendary samurai warrior Ki-Yaga, sensei of the Cockroach Ryu. Together with the other Cockroaches, Niya must defeat the fierce Dragon Ryu at the Samurai Trainee Games.

Review - So this is my second Middle Grade review ever and I have been trying to keep these one's shorter. Wish me luck! Of all the novels I have received in the past two months, this one got the greatest reaction from my class. The combination of the Samurai theme with the amazing artistry seemed to immediately capture their imaginations.

Sandy Fussell is an author with the talent of simplicity. She is deceptively descriptive as she paints images so effectively that kids access their imagination while not being overwhelmed by verbose, flowery sentences that so many authors use.

Samurai Kids: White Crane is the first novel of a series that follows the adventures of a group of kids studying to be Samurais under the tutelage of Ki-Yaga, a wizened and tough Mr Miagi type. Each of the students face hardship; whether missing a limb, blindness, fear or the absence of skin pigment (yes there is an albino character). This had the makings of being a cliche but it wasn't at all. None of the characters are self-pitying, each are continually encouraged by their teacher and one another that they can achieve anything. I think this is a great message for young readers. At no point is it clunky or preachy, I think this is why it's reached its targeted audience so effectively.

Of course there is plenty of adventure, sword play and the Trainee Games to keep your interest. Fussell's created a strong world, she's obviously spent significant time researching the way of the Samurai. She effectively shares that knowledge in a way kids (and myself) can process while integrating it clearly and strongly into the narrative.

I would like to make special mention of Rhian Nest James' beautiful artwork that favours the cover and many pages of this novel. They fit the novel so well as they too are deceptively simple while conveying meaning. I especially love the sidebars that grace each chapter's beginning.

Young readers will really enjoy the exploits of the Samurai Kids!

Published: 2008
Format: Paperback, 252 pages
Publisher: Walker Books
Origin: Australia

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Sandy Fussell's Website
Sandy Fussell's Blog - brand new!!
The Samurai Kids Website - really amazing as Sandy's a computer whizz
An extract

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