Samurai vs Ninja – The battle for the golden egg and Samurai vs Ninja – The race for the shogun’s treasure
Nick Falk & Tony Flowers (2015)
North Sydney: Random House
“Kingyo-Sama, esteemed Master Goldfish, was the leader of the samurai. He was tall and thin. His fingers were long and bony. His nose was pointier than a pickled parsnip. Buta-Sama, foolish Master Pig, was the leader of the ninja. He was small and sneaky. His fingers were short and stubby. His nose was squishier than a squelchy squash.”
This series of books is a collection of tales of the battle between brothers who lead opposing Japanese groups—the Samurai and the Ninja. The text, which regularly breaks out of regular paragraphing and marches strangely across the pages, is heavily supported on every page by ink drawings by Tony Flowers. Japanese terminology is sprinkled throughout the story and although the context gives very good support for working out what these words mean, there is also a glossary, an explanation of a few Japanese characters and various ridiculously labelled diagrams at the end of the book.
In short this series is hilarious. The characters are good and bad, clever and stupid, selfish and team-spirited. It is great fun to read aloud and the class of year one students who were my audience for the readings begged for more every time. It is great fun to listen to and the drawings had the students in fits of giggles as I read. It is not often that such engaging, high quality literature comes along for this age group of children. After reading the first story, I was mobbed by students wanting to borrow the second book to read independently. It is a perfect beginning novel and was equally adored by boys and girls.
There are many aspects of the text that could be pulled out for teaching purposes. As well as text layout and the interplay between words and illustrations, there is opportunity to look at alliteration, simile, clever verb choices and of course the opposite qualities of the brothers is perfect for studying antonyms. But… these books are meant to be enjoyed, not studied. I predict that they will develop a cult following and will never rest long on the library shelves. I categorise these as ‘essential’ for every school library and the prefect birthday present for a six or seven year old.
Robyn English – Assistant Principal, Boroondara Park Primary, Balwyn, Victoria