“To find these animal ninja…you must know where to look.”
That sentence ends a two-page introduction that gives a simple history and definition of human practitioners of ninjutsu (“the art of the ninja”) and invites readers to learn about animals that exhibit similar, extraordinary “skills.” The pages that follow offer fascinating facts, appealing design, and eye-catching illustrations. Symbolic art that mimics universal directional signs is used to show nine different ninja skills of more than nine different animals. Bright ink over a dark background lists each skill in romanized Japanese, with a clear definition beneath it. Colorful, high-resolution photography captures such sights as the boiling-hot spray issuing from the bombardier beetle while equally colorful drawings are used to further illustrate the physical capabilities of geckos and collector urchins. (Readers might have an inkling about the fine hairs that allow geckos to stick to surfaces and perform remarkable releases, but who knew that the collector urchin, when threatened, sends out tiny triangular protuberances with their own sets of snapping jaws?!) The text, which is accessible without condescension, also includes information about methods for studying and documenting the animals’ amazing characteristics and the names of scientists and institutions associated with the studies. More than once, the text encourages emerging scientists by noting that this research is current and ongoing—and that the more scientists learn, the more there is to learn.
Arigatou gozaimasu for entertaining enlightenment! (Nonfiction. 9-14)