To Western eyes, this might seem a strange and quirky book! It is the third in a series of three Japanese-themed stories, all featuring Little Kunoichi the Ninja Girl. In this adventure, Kunoichi gets bored with her own home and her parents decide to send her, ‘little bro’, and bunny to Grandmother’s island for the rest of the summer. As well as being a loving grandmother, Ba-chan is a wonderful cook, a creative inventor, a curious adventurer, and an accomplished ninja. Mayhem ensues when Ba-chan takes the visitors to her workshop to show them her latest projects.
Although Ishida uses traditional, delicate watercolours to create her appealing illustrations, the pictures are anything but traditional. With a slight nod to Richard Scarry, there is much to discover in Ishida’s multi-faceted compositions, and that is the strength of the book. Small readers will be taught about Japanese words, customs, foods, and even money, all without even realising they are learning. By the end of the tale, Ba-chan’s visitors have not only improved their ninja skills, but also learned about their inner magic.
There is a lot to take in with a slightly disjointed story only loosely holding all the elements (diagrams, maps, mazes and definitions) together, but this is a cheerful book that has a lot to offer culturally aware, ninja-loving 5 – 7 year olds.