White Crane, by Sandy Fussell

I can hear someone groaning. It’s me.
A great shadow looms over my head. I cringe as the shape crouches, ready to spring. Instead it purrs inside my ear.
‘Go to sleep, Niya.’
Claws extended, it prods my blanket around me, before slinking back towards the cliff edge. With a growl, it disappears down the mountain, leaving me to sleep in peace.

It isn’t easy training to be a samurai, but for Niya the task is extra difficult – because he has only one leg. In spite of his disability, Niya dreams of being a great samurai and, in the meantime, of defeating all of the other competitors at the Annual Samurai Trainee Games. First, though, he must get through a gruelling training schedule and a difficult journey to attend the games.

Niya belongs to the Cockroach Ryu, under the training of the great Sensei Ki-Yaga. The other students at the Ryu are, like Niya, disabled. Kyoko has extra fingers and toes, Mikko has only one arm, Taji is blind, and Yoshi is big and strong but refuses to fight. At the Trainee Games they must compete against able-bodied opponents, none more competitive (or nasty) than the Dragons. The reigning champions sneer at the members of the Cockroach Ryu and will stop at nothing to beat them

White Crane is the first title in the new series. This perfectly wrought tale will delight child and adult readers alike. Set in the mountains of Japan, and with a blend of mysticism, adventure and exploration of friendship, this is a wonderful offering for primary aged readers.

Samurai Kids: White Crane, by Sandy Fussell
Walker Books, 2008