The scene is sixteenth-century Japan. The boys Taka and Renzo and a girl named Cho are teenage Ninja aspiring warriors. Taka is about to be examined for his Black Belt as a Ninja warrior. To his chagrin, he has already failed the examination twice.
All is not lost. The blind Grand Master finds that the sacred Ninja scrolls have been stolen by Lord Oda, the leader of the Samurai, the deadly enemies of the Ninja. Oda is the one who killed Taka’s father. The Grand Master ordains that if Taka and Cho can recover the lost scrolls, Taka will be deemed to have passed the Black Belt test.
Can they succeed? As a publisher Barrington Stoke has made a mission of designing books for children who struggle to read well. This offering has an ingredient that encourages such readers, namely it moves at a fast pace. On every page there is a battle or some other heroic event taking place.
Wyatt’s illustrations are frequent and lively. Since every episode of the narrative is illustrated, reading the book seems almost like running through the story boards of a movie.
My one main reservation about this book centres on the presentation of the Grand Master. I appreciate the fact that despite his impairment he enters fully into the violent narrative. But the text states that his other senses compensate for the loss of his sight. This claim plays into the trap of a Hollywood stereotype, which does a disservice to people who are actually sightless.