"It didn't matter where you were, if you were in a room full of books you were at least halfway home."
-Lev Grossman, The Magician's Land

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Learn How to be a Super Awesome Ninja with Ninja Bunny

Olson, Jennifer Gray. (2015). Ninja Bunny. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 978-0-385-75493-4

This is the story of a little rabbit who is trying to become a ninja,  He has a manual from which he learns the rules of how to be a super awesome ninja.  Rule 1 states that "A super awesome ninja must always work alone."  From there, the little rabbit leaves his friends behind to practice being sneaky, climbing, creating ninja weapons, flying, and more.  But Ninja Bunny's newfound skills are put to the test when he meets up with an enormous bear.  Will he become the victor in the battle against the bear?  Or will he need to modify some of the rules he's learned to achieve success?  

Jennifer Gray Olson has created a delightful story.  Children will fall in love with Ninja Bunny, the endearing titular character, who is determined to become a super awesome ninja.  They will also relate to him, as many children also dream of becoming super heroes or ninja fighting machines.  Ninja Bunny attempts to follow the rulebook perfectly, but with each new situation, hilarity ensues.  While sneaking around a garden, he accidentally steps on a rake.  He manages to trap himself in a tree with his newly made ninja weapons.  And his efforts at flying look more like falling with style.  When Ninja Bunny faces the bear, armed with nothing but his manual and a broom, young readers will laugh but also fear for his safety.  Olson delivers a happy twist at the conclusion of the story, which has Ninja Bunny rethinking the rules he has learned.      

Olson's ink and watercolor illustrations are the perfect companion to her text.  Ninja Bunny is actually adorable but she helps him to appear fierce through his facial expressions and cool ninja costume.  The initial image of the bear takes up more than one page, so readers will understand how much of a threat he is.  But as the power shifts away from the bear, he becomes smaller in scale.  The differing text styles are also important to note.  The rules from the ninja manual are written in large, black letters.  However, whenever a character is speaking, the font becomes tiny.   

My children and I read this book for the first time last night, and we thoroughly enjoyed it.  Both of my children laughed throughout and asked me to reread it several times.  In my house, that is a sure sign of a great picture book.  In response to the first reading, my seven year old daughter said, "It was pretty funny that Ninja Bunny ripped up his rulebook.  I loved when the bear said, 'Uh-oh!' "  As for my five year old son, he was too busy yelling "HI-YAH" and practicing his karate moves to sit and talk with me about the book.

From SCHOOL LIBARY JOURNAL - "Children will love reading about Little Bunny's adventures. VERDICT A fun addition, especially where ninjas are popular."

From KIRKUS REVIEWS - "A primer on how to be a ninja, especially if you are a bunny...Olson's ink-and-watercolor illustrations make dramatic use of scale, white space, and the contrast between curved lines and straight, blocky lines. When an enormous enemy shows up and forces a re-evaluation of Rule 1, the suspense is simultaneously real and funny, and the bear's sudden change in scale reveals the power of a group working together. Sure to inspire some new ninja bunnies."

From PUBLISHERS WEEKLY - "A rabbit attempts to follow its dream of becoming a ninja in this quirky testament to friendship and the difficulty of going it alone...Sweetly humorous fun for readers working on their own 'hi-yahs.' "

For more of Jennifer Gray Olson's work, share The Good Dog with your students, a book she illustrated.
  • Kessler, Todd. The Good Dog. ISBN 978-1626340909

Watch the trailer with your students before you read the book to help get them excited.  Ninja Bunny Trailer

Have a discussion with your students about when it is ideal to work alone and what situations are better to face with your friends.

Have your students try using ink and watercolors to create their own ninja bunnies.

Teach your students a few basic karate moves.  Make sure they yell "HI-YAH" when they execute them.