A mosquito doesn’t stand a chance against a ninja.
While clearly intended as a humorous text about a pesky mosquito and a pint-sized “ninja,” the depiction of the latter brings up troublesome characterization matters. The opening text declares that “mosquitoes bite all kinds of people,” and the cartoon-style art (reminiscent of Kate Beaton’s work) provides an aerial view of the insect zooming toward a diverse community. The ninja is depicted apart from this community, is assigned no pronouns, and is always clad in black clothing that leaves only eyes visible. The ninja’s skin is light brown—a darker shade than some people in the earlier depicted characters and lighter than others—and the ninja is described as “sneakier” and “quicker” than the mosquito. In the picture depicting quickness, the ninja sits cross-legged on the ground and, with narrowed eyes glancing to the side, grabs the mosquito in midair with twigs held like chopsticks. Combined, these cues reinforce Asian stereotypes. The child-sized ninja doesn’t appear to be playing pretend, nor to belong to a family, but is joined by a “baby ninja” who wears colorful clothes and a ninja mask. The story’s resolution arrives when, instead of being bitten, the ninja bites (and evidently swallows) the mosquito when it gets stuck in a jam sandwich, delivering a bizarre end to the fraught tale.
Pass. (Picture book. 4-6)