Sandy Fussell lives in Australia, works in information
technology, and loves history. The Samurai Kids series is her first
Rhian Nest James has illustrated more than sixty children's books, including Samurai Kids: White Crane. Born in Wales, she now lives in Australia.
Gr 5-7-The Cockroach Ryu, a band of physically challenged samurai trainees, are now on a journey to persuade the emperor to prevent a war in feudal Japan. Tension is heightened when the young people learn that the emperor has reason to kill their beloved sensei on sight, so they train with the Owl Ninja Clan to increase their chances of succeeding in their quest. Continuing with the series' theme of teamwork and accepting differences, the ninja, ordinarily considered to be an enemy of the samurai, teach the Cockroach Ryu students to approach obstacles in new ways. The text is structured in short, simple sentences, making it accessible to reluctant readers, and the adventure is sprinkled with gentle humor, adding to its general appeal. Lively black-and-white brush paintings mark the beginning of each chapter and illustrate scenes from the text, providing visual interest. On the other hand, the large cast of characters can be difficult to keep straight, and the bland characterizations and dialogue don't help in this regard. Furthermore, the book's cultural and historical authenticity is unbalanced; a description of the traditional tea ceremony is accurate and beautifully written, but in another scene, the characters are shown to eat egg rolls, which are more commonly attributed to China rather than Japan. Although this book is not for the strict historian, it will find its audience among fans of lighthearted adventure and martial arts stories.-Allison Tran, Mission Viejo Library, CA (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.