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Burt Konzak
Illustrated Johnny Wales
Toronto, Lester Publishing, 1994. 32pp, cloth,
$16.95, ISBN 1-895555-54-X. Distributed by
Nelson Canada. CIP

Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 4-7

Reviewed by Theo Hersh

Volume 22 Number 4
1994 September

Noguchi is a bully on a boat. He terrorizes the other passengers when his pipe barrel accidentally falls into the ocean. One passenger does not quiver and quake at Noguchi's tantrum. Michihara, an old samurai, sits half-asleep, a slight which annoys Noguchi no end. He takes a swing at Michihara with his sword, and, thus aroused, the old man challenges the bully to a fight on a nearby deserted island. Over-eager, Noguchi jumps out of the ferry and Michihara quickly turns the boat back out to sea. Outsmarted and defeated, Noguchi throws off his clothes and chases the ferry. Michihara directs the vessel back, and a wiser and humbler Noguchi boards the boat and accepts the old samurai's teacup.

Johnny Wales, whose work was last seen in Claire Mackay's  Toronto Story¹, fills single and double-page spreads with soft water-colour that packs a punch(line). There is lots to see in the illustrations: comic-looking passengers with expressions of all kinds; Noguchi looking like an overgrown pouting child; and, by contrast, wise Michihara looking relaxed and serene throughout.

Burt Zonzak, who uses stories with his work as a karate teacher for children, has written a good first book. The language is direct but not didactic. Simply told with the flavour and humour of a tall tale,  Noguchi the Samurai delivers an important message: "Wits are the best weapon of all." It will be enjoyed by children aged four and up.

Theo Hersh is a children's librarian with the Toronto Public Library in Toronto, Ontario

¹ Reviewed vol.XIX/2 March 1991, p.107.

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