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White Crane: Samurai Kids #1    by Sandy Fussell & Rhian Nest James order for
White Crane
by Sandy Fussell
Order:  USA  Can
Candlewick, 2010 (2010)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

White Crane, by Sandy Fussell and Rhian Nest James, is the first in a new Samurai Kids series that will appeal to middle schoolers, especially those who feel different from their peers. It's filled with adventure, humor, and snippets of Zen wisdom.

Legendary Sensei Ki-Yaga, who was once a famed samurai warrior, hand picks students to train in his Cockroach Ryu. One-legged Niya Moto (whose spirit is the White Crane) has trained with Ki-Yaga for three years now. His fellow students are albino Kyoko (whose spirit is the Snow Monkey and who has extra fingers and toes); one-armed Mikko (whose spirit is the Striped Gecko); blind Taji (whose spirit is the Golden Bat); and huge, strong Yoshi, who doesn't want to fight but will not reveal why.

Sensei, as ancient as the mountains ('Most people think he died years ago'), spends his time dozing in the sun, but still manages to see everything his unwanted students do. He tells them that 'Cockroaches are small, but they are very hard to kill.' When Sensei sends Niya and Yoshi to the village for supplies, an earthquake sends Niya rolling down the mountain and Yoshi rescues him. He reveals his secret to his friend, and finds his spirit totem - the Tiger!

The students celebrate Gembuku (their coming of age) and prepare for the Samurai Training Games, which the arrogant Dragon Ryu is expected to win. En route, a new student (a Dragon reject) joins the close-knit Cockroach Ryu. At the games, teamwork and 'Chi, jin, yu' ('Wisdom, benevolence, and courage') win the day. White Crane makes an excellent beginning to this new series, Karate Kid for middle schoolers.

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