Adds little to the original while propagating Asian and martial arts stereotypes.

THE NINJABREAD MAN

A ninja-themed retelling of “The Gingerbread Man.”

“Once upon a time, there was a little old sensei who taught ninjas in a hidden dojo.” Said sensei is a small fuchsia-and-white panda with trailing mustache and beard and a stereotypical conical hat, and his ninjas include Bear, Fox, Mouse, and Snake, all in black outfits tied with a colored belt. To reward their hard work, the sensei, working from an ancient recipe, crafts a Ninjabread treat: a tiny ninja complete with his own miniscule sword and throwing stars. When the cookie escapes the oven, the teacher warns his students with a gong. Bear, Snake, and Mouse hear it and confront the little cookie, but they fail to capture or eat him. Fox’s difficulty hearing anything over the sound of the waterfall gives him the perfect way to lure the Ninjabread Man closer, to the cookie’s demise. Leigh’s retelling may enthrall kids practicing martial arts, but the tale is rather weak: the rhymes the cookie spouts are loose and sporadic; the fights with the other ninjas are over too quickly; and it’s never clear just how the cookie succeeds against his much larger opponents. Spare, Asian-inspired scenes background the action of the ninjas, who all sport extremely mean faces when confronting their small nemesis.

Adds little to the original while propagating Asian and martial arts stereotypes. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-545-81430-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Aims high but falls flat.

WILD SYMPHONY

Through 20 short poems, Maestro Mouse invites readers to meet a series of animals who have lessons to impart and a symphony to perform.

Brown, author of The DaVinci Code (2003) and other wildly popular titles for adults, here offers young listeners a poetry collection accompanied by music: a “symphony” performed, for readers equipped with an audio device and an internet connection, by the Zagreb Festival Orchestra. From the introduction of the conductor and the opening “Woodbird Welcome” to the closing “Cricket Lullaby,” the writer/composer uses poems made of three to eight rhyming couplets, each line with four strong beats, to introduce the animals who will be revealed in the final double gatefold as the players in an all-animal orchestra. Each poem also contains a lesson, reinforced by a short message (often on a banner or signpost). Thus, “When life trips them up a bit, / Cats just make the best of it” concludes the poem “Clumsy Kittens,” which is encapsulated by “Falling down is part of life. The best thing to do is get back on your feet!” The individual songs and poems may appeal to the intended audience, but collectively they don’t have enough variety to be read aloud straight through. Nor does the gathering of the orchestra provide a narrative arc. Batori’s cartoon illustrations are whimsically engaging, however. They include puzzles: hard-to-find letters that are said to form anagrams of instrument names and a bee who turns up somewhere in every scene.

Aims high but falls flat. (Complete composition not available for review.) (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12384-3

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Rodale Kids

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Lendroth brings the right ingredients, offering a tale that challenges gender stereotypes and showcases an intergenerational...

NATSUMI!

An exuberant young girl finds her match in taiko drumming.

A whirlwind of energy, Natsumi often hears the words, “Not so fast” or “hard” or “loud” from her family. When she worries her boisterous actions always lead to mistakes, her grandfather finds the perfect outlet: taiko. On stage, Natsumi pounds the large, barrel-shaped drums—their thundering boom an extension of her enthusiastic spirit. Like Kevin Henkes with his water pistol–toting Lilly, Lendroth offers a charming character who defies traditional gender associations. However, her choice to place this modern story in a “village” is interesting. Cultural festivals such as the one she describes are experienced by Japanese-Americans today, and the United States has a thriving taiko or kumidaiko scene, yet Americans do not typically refer to their small towns or rural locations as villages. Acknowledgement that the setting is in Japan in the tale’s initial setup would have been helpful, as it establishes an entirely different lens for readers. Digital art, made to look like marker drawings, are colored in a mostly pastel palette. Unfortunately, while the artist is capable of including more interest and detail in her illustrations, as in her Five Green and Speckled Frogs (2003), she fails to give these characters and setting the specificity she gave generic animals.

Lendroth brings the right ingredients, offering a tale that challenges gender stereotypes and showcases an intergenerational bond, but overall, it’s a disappointing execution to a promising start. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-17090-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more