________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 11 . . . . January 23, 2009

cover The Legend of Ninja Cowboy Bear.

David Bruins. Illustrated by Hilary Leung.
Hamilton, ON: (www.ninja-cowboy-bear.com), 2008.
32 pp., hardcover, $16.00.
ISBN 978-0-9784977-0-5.

Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 3-7.

Review by Linda Ludke.

**½ /4


Once upon a time there were three friends: a ninja, a cowboy, and a bear. They did everything together and enjoyed each other's company. However, each one was different in his own way. One day those differences came between them, and here is what happened.

A ninja, a cowboy and a bear are unlikely friends. They enjoy reading comics together, jockeying for the last piece of pizza and playing in a band. When the bear throws a frisbee too hard, a fight ensues. The ninja claims to be better than the bear. Acting as a mediator, the cowboy sets out a challenge of building the largest pile of rocks. Wordless panels show the competitors' efforts. The bear's strength makes him the winner.

internal art

     The cowboy, in turn, disagrees that the bear is unbeatable and asks the ninja to decide who is better. Reluctant to choose between his friends, the ninja devises a raspberry picking contest. Two side-by-side wordless panels contrast the lumbering bear with the quick-handed cowboy. Finally, the ninja and cowboy are pitted against each other. The bear instructs them to catch as many rabbits as possible. Although the cowboy tries his best, he is no match for the stealthy ninja.

     At an impasse when figuring out who is the overall champion, the friends part ways. Upon quiet reflection, they realize "they had overlooked each other's talents ... Each one discovered that they were not better than the other."

     Hilary Leung's stylized illustrations are digitally enhanced cartoons that extend the short text. In fact, much of the action is conveyed through the wordless spreads. The backgrounds have the look of a wood-grain finish which adds texture and depth to the pages.

     The final pages present how to play Ninja Cowboy Bear which is a full-body variation on the classic Rock Paper Scissors hand game. A boy and girl are shown standing back-to-back and then taking three steps away from each other. After turning, they mimic the stance of their character choice. A "pictorial legend" summarizes the winning moves as explained in the "book legend": Ninja beats Cowboy; Cowboy beats Bear; Bear beats Ninja.

     While the message of accepting differences ("each one of them was special and unique- just like you and me") seems forced, the strength of this book is the introduction of a fun playground game.


Linda Ludke is a librarian in London, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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