Aspiring ninjas attend camp, where they hone their skills and guard the coveted Shadow Blade.
A multicultural group of kids and their teacher arrive in a bamboo forest littered with tents, “Ninja Camp is finally here!” Evenly paced rhymes narrate as the students practice throwing ninja stars and work on strength training. Their teacher challenges them: “Are you fierce and unafraid? / Will you guard the Shadow Blade?” The real test comes when a rival camp steals the blade, calling for a battle showdown. The simple plot reads well aloud. Bright, digitally rendered characters against the colorful natural landscapes will keep readers’ eyes engaged. There are visual missteps, however. Liberal artistic license is taken in the styling of the ninja clothing, eschewing classical Japanese attire despite ninjitsu’s cultural origins. During training, the student with the darkest skin tone is shown last in line, while their white classmate leads. On the same page, another white student overtakes a distressed student of color during a run. The final honor of the Shadow Blade is bestowed on the white student who acts as focal character; this child perches on a rock while a student of color looks up in admiration. The culmination of these portrayals makes for a regrettable message.
Unfortunate images compromise this ninja mission. Look to Sanae Ishida’s Chibi Samurai series for cultural accuracy and quirky ninja fun. (Picture book. 3-7)