What happens when a novice takes martial arts into her own hands?
Chaos! An elementary-age girl with brown skin and straight black hair finds a guide to Chinese martial arts and ignores its warning: “Do not attempt these forms without an experienced teacher!” As she assumes the first form, crane, the giant bird materializes in her room, batting the books from her bookshelf, dumping out her backpack, and tugging on her ponytail. Returning to her book, the girl moves through three subsequent forms, conjuring more animals to join the crane in wreaking havoc—a towering leopard, an even larger snake, and, finally, a humongous dragon that spans two double-page spreads. Can a small girl tame these oversized, rambunctious animals and set her house back to rights? Yes, with a deus ex machina: while those child readers familiar with Chinese martial arts will likely expect the appearance of a tiger, traditionally the fifth animal in this group, McClintock instead offers a fifth form that “returns everything to the way it was.” Perhaps with an author's note, references, or additional resources, this might have worked, but as is, it’s a bit puzzling. McClintock’s art, bold brush strokes that mimic Chinese calligraphy, perfectly captures the vibrant energy of the story. But it also adds slight confusion when the girl, supposedly in the leopard stance, is shown with hands in tiger formation.
Not quite a knockout. (Picture book. 4-8)