White Crane

Sandy Fussell, illus. by Rhian Nest James, Candlewick, $15.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-7636-4503-8
First in a martial arts series written in chapter-long vignettes, Fussell's debut is infused with authentic emotion and an agile plot. Niya, a 14-year-old, one-legged boy with a vivid imagination, goes to study with the Cockroach Ryu in the Tateyama Mountains of Japan, led by ancient and mysterious sensei Ki-Yaga, who speaks using proverbs and encourages his disciples to embrace their spirit animals. "My spirit totem flew into my heart. When I look into the mirror, I don't see my reflection; I see the White Crane. If I am afraid, it crouches with me and I'm not alone," says Niya. There he meets Mikko, who has one arm; Yoshi, who is strong and large, but refuses to fight; Kyoko, who has an extra finger and toe; and Taji, who is blind. As they train for a coming-of-age ceremony followed by the Samurai Trainee Games, they gain strength from the sensei's lessons (from sword fighting to calligraphy) and from their budding friendships. James's expressive b&w illustrations and Fussell's focus on misfits beating the odds should insure that this spirited story appeals to a broad audience. Ages 9–14. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 11/08/2010
Release date: 08/01/2010
Genre: Children's
Compact Disc - 978-1-4558-0098-8
MP3 CD - 978-1-4558-0100-8
Paperback - 237 pages - 978-0-7636-5346-0
Prebound-Glued - 256 pages - 978-0-606-23461-0
Pre-Recorded Audio Player - 978-1-4558-0102-2
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