CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number 21 . . . . February 10, 2017
The naughty ninjas are at it again in the third uproarious adventure from Chris Tougas. Something is afoot this morning as the master sleeps unawares in the dojo. The ninja children have arrived early with balloons and fruit punch and festive bunting – Master's birthday is a special occasion, indeed! Although they try their hardest to be stealthy, a few mishaps inevitably wake and scare their dozing caregiver during the party preparation. While the Master tries to stay vigilant, quoting a soothing mantra to calm his nerves, the little ninjas scurry about (mostly) unseen. In the end, the master is surprised and delighted by his wonderful gift, and the whole group celebrates with cake.
As always, Tougas hits just the right note on pacing and humour. The Master's vivid imagination is wild and frenzied as he tries to make sense of the random disruptions to his morning. As the reader pieces together the plot ahead of the main character, he or she can laugh along, a co-conspirator in the little ninjas' plan. How fun to see the children scatter as the adult dreams up dragon drool and runs to hide. This story uses the same, smooth rhyme scheme of the other two, Dojo Daycare and Dojo Daytrip, and it helps to build up the suspense as well as keep the story engaging throughout.
The digitally rendered images are, themselves, a draw. The text alone, while clever and catchy, does not quite tell the story of the surprise that is in the works. For example, on the left page readers see the children hoisting each other up to hang the bunting which is creating a shadow of an imposing dragon on the right page. One of the most impressive effects of the illustrations is the emotion drawn into the Master's face. Tougas is somehow able to show subtle changes from uncertainty to all-out fear with a medium that doesn't involve a lot of detail. Dojo Surprise is a fun read and will have a broad appeal as a standalone or as a part of the "dojo" set.
Amber Allen is a librarian in Toronto, ON, with a passion for children's literature and writing.
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