Red Fox, by Sandy Fussell

My muscles ache but my heart aches even harder. I am the only one who has made it to the shore. I am the only one who has survived the monsoon’s rampage.
For the first time in my life I am completely alone. No Mikko to tease me. No Kyoko to make me smile. No Yoshi, Taji, Chen or little Yuri. Not even Sensei is here to help me.

When Niya wakes up on a deserted beach, he is all alone. He fears he is the only survivor of a terrible shipwreck. He can no longer hear his beloved Sensei and the other Cockroaches are nowhere to be found. Soon, though, he is reunited with Chen, and together they set off to search for their friends, who, if they have survived, will have headed to the temple city of Angkor.

Red Fox is the seventh title in the Samurai Kids series and will delight lovers of the series. As always there are challenges for Niya and his friends, and this time Niya needs to dig deep to confront both the physical obstacles, and his growing maturity. He has his own student, Chen, to look out for and to guide, and must also trust Sensei as he starts to let go regardless of whether Niya wants things to change.

As with most series, Red Fox is best read having read the previous instalments, but Fussell’s story genius is such that it could be read in isolation with touches of back story included and a plot not reliant on a full knowledge of what has gone before.

Red Fox (Samurai Kids)

Red Fox (Samurai Kids), by Sandy Fussell, illustrated by Rhian Nest James
Walker Books, 2012
ISBN 978192207750

Available from good bookstores or online.

Fire Lizard, by Sandy Fussell

Reviewed by Liam Murphy (Age 12)

This is a good adventure book about the Samurai kids meeting the Sensei’s teacher, Pak Cho so they can defeat Hyo Moon and send a warning to the governor.

The book is full of excitement and humour. It is a great story about friendship and teamwork.

Once you begin reading it is impossible to put down, as it is unpredictable what will happen next.

Samurai Kids Book 5: Fire Lizard

Samurai Kids Book 5: Fire Lizard, by Sandy Fussell
Walker Books, 2010

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Monkey Fist, by Sandy Fussell

‘Something terrible has happened,’ I say. ‘I can feel it.’
Sensei’s words race through my head. It’s not what you can hear that matters, but what you cannot hear. It’s not what you can see that is important, but what you can’t see.
As my eyes adjust to the darkness, I spy Taji and Sensei asleep. I can’t see Kyoko anywhere.
I panic. ‘Kyoko is missing.’

Sensei Ki-Yaga and the Samurai kids are journeying through China when Kyoko is kidnapped. Sensei’s old adversary, Lu Zeng, is challenging him to try to get Kyoko back. But getting inside the Forbidden Palace, where Lu Zeng lives, will not prove easily – and outwitting him to get Kyoko back will be even harder.

Monkey Fist is the fourth title in the wonderful Samurai Kids series. As with the other books, readers are offered an exciting mix of action, humour, obstacles and tension. Niya, the viewpoint character, is a likeable narrator, with the reader able to see his flaws as well as his strengths, and like him all the more for them.

Monkey Fist can stand alone for those new to the series, but will be adored by those who have had the chance to read the earlier stories.

A wonderful new addition to a wonderful series.

Samurai Kids Book 4:: Monkey Fist

Samurai Kids Book 4: Monkey Fist, by Sandy Fussell
Walker Books, 2009

This book can be purchased online at Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Shaolin Tiger, by Sandy Fussell

Yoshi says nothing. Life is all about balance. With only one leg, I understand that well. When Yoshi was much younger he accidentally killed a friend in a wrestling match. But then he saved my life and the balance was restored. Now it’s gone again.
‘All things happen for a reason. One day Yoshi will find this one,’ Sensei says. ‘The Captain has gone and we must travel on again.’

Sensei and his students, from the Cockroach Ryu, travel by sea from Japan to China, to give aid to the Shaolin Monks. On the way, the boat’s captain is drowned and Yoshi, who has tried to save him, is left troubled. In China one of Sensei’s past students, Qing-Shen, awaits – determined to gain retribution for Sensei’s broken promise. Qing-Shen wants to see Sensei dead, and he has the skills to carry out his wish – unless the Little Cockroaches can protect Sensei by outsmarting Qing-Shen.

Shaolin Tiger is the third title in the wonderful Samurai Kids series, a wonderful fantasy series set in Japan and China. Sensei is a wise teacher and his students – who appear to others to be each flawed – brave and eager to learn. The narrator, Niya, has just one leg, and his fellow students’ include children with physical differences, as well as Yoshi, who is fit and strong but has lost the will to fight others. Sensei himself also carries secret burdens, some of which are revealed in this book, and others hinted at for future instalments.

This third instalment does stand alone as a wonderful, action packed read, but readers will be keen to read the earlier titles , and equally impatient for the next instalment.

A must read.

Shaolin Tiger (Samurai Kids)

Samurai Kids: Shaolin Tiger, by Sandy Fussell
Walker Books, 2009

This book can be purchased online at Fishpond

Owl Ninja, by Sandy Fussell

Something is wrong. Usually, the Sword Master likes to chat and joke, to tell us stories of the days when he was a boy listening to Ki-Yaga’s feet. Sensei was old, even then.
Across the valley a drumbeat echoes. Thum. Thum.
“What’s that?” Nezume asks.
Ta-thum. Ta-thum. Thum

A drum beat is echoing across the mountains, calling the mountain ryus to war. The samurai kids don’t want to fight. Their sensei can stop the war, but there isn’t much time, and first they must travel across the land for an audience with the Emperor. Only he can silence the drum. But will they reach him safely and on time?

Owl Ninja is the second in the wonderful Samurai Kids series from talented new author Sandy Fussell. Featuring the wonderful cast of characters from the first story as well as some colourful new ones, the story is self contained but will be enjoyed most by those who read the first.

Readers are transported into the world and time of the Samurai, with the landscape coming alive through Fussell’s carefully wrought text, and the characters delightfully illustrated in the manga-style plates of Rhian Nest James.

This is an outstanding series and readers will look forward to the third instalment.

Owl Ninja (Samurai Kids)

Samurai Kids: Owl Ninja, by Sandy Fussell
Walker Books, 2008

This book can be purchased online at Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

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