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Owl Ninja: Samurai Kids #2    by Sandy Fussell & Rhian Nest James order for
Owl Ninja
by Sandy Fussell
Order:  USA  Can
Candlewick, 2011 (2011)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

White Crane, the first in the Samurai Kids middle school series written by Sandy Fussell and illustrated by Rhian Nest James, introduced us to legendary Sensei Ki-Yaga. Once a famed samurai warrior, he hand picks students, including the narrator, one-legged Niya Moto (whose spirit is the White Crane), to train in his Cockroach Ryu. All his students have differences to overcome, from lack of a limb or vision to being albino, or refusing to fight. But their victory at the Samurai Trainee Games in the first episode changed perceptions of the Cockroach Ryu.

Like the first book, Owl Ninja continues to deliver adventure, humor, and snippets of Zen wisdom, such as 'Fear is nothing to be afraid of' and 'The easiest opponent is the one who thinks he has already won.' As the story opens, a drumbeat echoes across the valley, calling the mountain ryus to war, ending a fifty-year peace. But Sensei will not lead his Cockroach Ryu to war, increasing the enmity of the Dragon Master, who 'has a score to settle.' Sensei decides to take his students to the winter residence of the Emperor, to request his help in stopping the war. But Niya is disturbed to learn that, at their last meeting, the Emperor threatened to execute Ki-Yaga!

They journey through Hell Valley, where a ghost advises Niya, 'You need only one slipper'. A large tramp they encounter turns out to be more than he seems. An old friend teaches them ninja tricks to secretly enter the castle. There they train with Owl Ninja, who are also kitchen hands and make excellent miso soup. Niya acts bravely to save a friend and puts together an audacious plan to make the Emperor release Ki-Yaga from his service. But Sensei has his own plan, which will leave readers anxious to see as the White Crane 'soars across the ocean' in the next episode.

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