A child ninja in Japan embarks on his first covert mission in this fractured nursery rhyme.
“Jack B. Ninja! Jack, be quick! / Jack, jump over the bamboo stick!” Now that training is complete, his first mission commences. Told in rhyming couplets similar to, but at times not as fluent as, the original rhyme’s, the novice’s skills are put to the test. “Hide in shadow, out of sight.” He sneaks past a line of faceless samurai. In a Japanese garden, he finds an underwater tunnel and eventually infiltrates “a bandit cave.” There he finds his objective: a small red chest. Each obstacle Jack faces is introduced and resolved on the same page, including the climax of conflict: He is trapped in a pit full of bandits. Due to the lack of suspense and any obvious struggle, the plot has an overall lighthearted quality. However, its rapid, happy rhymes, paired with a decent twist when the chest’s contents are finally revealed, will appeal to little readers, especially during a read-aloud. The clean type, rhyme, and repetition also make this a good choice for a beginning reader. Savage’s illustrations are minimalist in detail and bold, with simple shapes and lines. He makes effective use of bright, contrasting colors, which pop to the eye. Still, this is but one ninja book on a crowded shelf.
This ninja leaves no lasting mark, yet it has enough quick rhymes and tricks that it will have young fans requesting repeat visits. (Picture book. 3-6)