December 5 – International Ninja Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s celebration remembers and honors the ninja warriors of China and Japan who with stealth and their signature black clothing could appear and vanish “like a hawk on stolen wings” to defeat their opponents. It was rumored that they were masters of Kuji-Kiri, an eastern magical practice that allowed them to combine their natural ability to move undetected with supernatural powers. The original ninja came from the Iga province of Japan and were made up of regular citizens. Their weapons were those of farmers, making it easier for them to be explained away and these warriors to escape exposure. The black clothing that we now associate with the ninja came from the theater, where the “invisibility” of the common-man warrior was represented by stage hands playing the parts of the ninja. To conceal themselves from the audience, stage hands wore black costumes that blended in with the black background curtains. When they became part of the play, theater-goers were taken by surprise. Today, ninja remain popular characters in movies and books, and especially with children.

Ninja! Attack of the Clan

By Arree Chung

 

Maxwell is dressed in his ninja best, pool cue at the ready. Now all he needs is a “worthy opponent.” He leaps into the kitchen where his mom’s making a salad. “HI-YA!” But when he asks if his mom wants to play, she tells him she’s too busy. He turns to his sister. “BOOYAH! Cassy, want to play with me?” he asks. “I working,” she answers from behind the tall building she’s constructing from blocks. Disappointed, Maxwell searches out his dad in his office.

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Copyright 2016 Arree Chung, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

“Papa!” Maxwell exclaims. “Yes, Maxwell…,” Papa says, flipping through the file cabinet. Want to play hide-and-seek with me?” Maxwell asks. “Yes, Maxwell,” Papa says, studying the income tax form in his hand. “OKAY!!! I’ll hide, you seek.” Maxwell shouts as he runs out of the room. “Yes, Maxwell,” Papa says, opening the tax program on the computer.

Maxwell tries out various hiding places, but none seem ninja-worthy. Then he spies the bed. Concealing himself underneath, he waits for Papa to find him…and waits. Finally, he hears a thump, thump, thump, and giggles with anticipation. But it’s only Brutus sniffing him out. Time goes by and still no Papa. Maxwell shouts out an anti-clue, but still nothing happens. At last Maxwell leaves his hiding place and goes back to his dad’s office, where Papa is still sitting in front of the computer. “Hey, you never came looking for me,” Maxwell says. But his dad is too distracted to hear him. Maxwell heads out with a dejected, “Forget it.”

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Copyright Arree Chung, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

To recover from disappointment, Maxwell knows “a ninja must practice the art of meditation and find inner peace.” But even here his bad day continues. When he’s called for dinner he skips out to the dining room, but no one is at the table except Brutus, who is gulping down Maxwell’s soup. Suddenly, Brutus barks a warning. From behind comes a “surprise attack!” “Defend yourself,” orders Papa. With a flick of his finger, Maxwell secures his mask and goes to work, poking Papa in the belly. His dad comes back with an awesome bear hug, but Maxwell deftly somersaults out of his arms. With lightning speed he whips his jump rope across the room and ties up Papa.

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Copyright 2016 Arree Chung, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

Next comes his mom, wielding her yellow bag. Maxwell leaps over the flying purse and retrieves its lost lipstick, which he slathers on in preparation for the “kiss of death!” Covered in red lip marks, Maxwell’s mom joins his father in defeat. Cassy, however, is harder to pin down. She sneaks behind him and in one swift move covers his eyes with his own headband and applies a dastardly “SLURP!” Stunned, Maxwell admits, “I’ve been licked.” Still—as the battle continues to wage—Maxwill declares, “I love my ninja clan!”

In Ninja! Attack of the Clan, Arree Chung’s cute sequel to Ninja!, Maxwell just wants to play with his family but is disappointed as each is too busy to take notice. Maxwell’s dilemma is handled with honesty and humor that will resonate with kids. The end of the story in which Maxwell’s family executes the perfect remedy for his bad day is touching and will have kids cheering for this enthusiastic ninja. Chung’s bold, vibrant cartoon-inspired panels perfectly carry the high-action parts of the story, while full-page illustrations slow things down a bit to embrace family time.

Ages 4 – 7

Henry Holt, 2016 | ISBN 978-0805099164

For little ninjas there’s so much to see and do on Arree Chung’s website, including fun activities, a video, more about the characters, a gallery of ninja art by kids, and even a place where they can “ninjafy” pictures of themselves!

International Ninja Day Activity

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Stealthy Ninja Maze

 

Two ninja have been separated from their group! Can you help them find their way back in this printable Stealthy Ninja Maze?

Picture Book Review

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