CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 14. . . .December 3, 2010.
Ninja Cowboy Bear Presents the Way of the Ninja.
David Bruins. Illustrated by Hilary Leung.
Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 2010.
32 pp., hardcover, $16.95.
Preschool-grade 1 / Ages 4-6.
Review by Leanne Ryrie.
The ninja loved to spend time with his friends the cowboy and the bear. When they got together it usually led to merrymaking, buffoonery and hilarity. But not always. Sometimes they did not agree on what was fun.
David Bruins has created a series of books based on the relationship between a ninja, a cowboy and a bear. This book is the second book in the series, and the story examines what happens when friends do not agree. The ninja, the cowboy and the bear typically have fun together, but sometimes the ninja wants things to go his way. As a result of his domineering tendencies, the cowboy and the bear get physically hurt. Although the ninja initially feels that playing on his own is just fine, he soon realizes that he misses his friends. By the end of the story, he has learned the art of compromise, and he has developed some empathy for his friends and their respective situations.
Hilary Leung provides the art for this text, and his illustrations include contrast between the simple lines of the characters and more complex shapes and lines that are evident in some of the backgrounds in the book. The illustrator also includes speech bubbles that contain pictures when the bear and cowboy are speaking and Japanese characters when the ninja is speaking. Another interesting technique utilized by the artist is the inclusion of actual photographs of children in the pictures that are hanging on the wall of the kitchen. The illustrations provide a layer of complexity to the text that is not always evident in the authorís story.
Although I read this story to the students in my grade 2 class, they were not overly interested in the book. I have adjusted the age recommendation of this text to reflect their reactions. I think that younger children might be more interested in reading about the adventures of the ninja, cowboy, and the bear. One feature of this book that I really enjoyed was the fact that there is a website that accompanies the book. www.ninja-cowboy-bear.com provides some interesting activities and background information about the characters. Several accompanying games were listed for this book, along with character information and colouring pages.
Perhaps my biggest problem with the book was that I just didnít get it. I was unclear about why the three characters were friends, and I was unclear about why I was reading about a ninja in the first place. Having said this, the book did provide a very clear moral and touted the benefits of being an inclusive and thoughtful friend. This book would definitely start a conversation for young children in regards to the qualities of a good friend.
Recommended with Reservations.
Leanne Ryrie, who teaches second grade in Winnipeg, MB, is currently a graduate student.
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