Wednesday 25 July 2012

The Nerdy Ninjas vs the Really Really Bad Guys

Nerdy Ninjas Vs the Really Really  Bad Guys (Nerdy Ninjas) Nerdy Ninjas Vs the Really Really  Bad Guys (Nerdy Ninjas) by Shogun Whamhower, illustrated by Heath McKenzie (Scholastic Press)
PB RRP $9.99
ISBN 978 1 74283 026 1
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

The Nerdy Ninjas begin their school years as ordinary nerds. Well, maybe not so ordinary. Ben, who plays the trumpet often and not always appropriately, is given detention for using his teachers in imaginative creative writing pieces. Jake, who drives a rocket powered wheelchair, earns detentions by arguing with his science teacher. Pongo, who travels everywhere on a pogo stick due to his allergies, is often in detention for arriving late to school. And Veejay, who wants to be an opera singer, uses the detention room to hide out from an over-attentive mother.

The only time these nerds are ever noticed by anyone is when they are in trouble at school. This suits them fine. But when the four friends are ignored by the local bully Crispin Staniforth, who deems them too nerdy, it is the last straw. They decide put this ability to remain unnoticed to use and train themselves as Ninjas. They may even be able to stop this bully.

This comic story follows the exploits of the four friends as they transform themselves into ninjas, battle the bullies and manage to get the bottom of the puzzle of the men in orange who lurk throughout the story.
The supporting characters are great too. There’s Crispin Staniforth, the local bully who lurks in an alley posing with his pipe and the Financial Times rolled up under his arm. Mark Fotheringham-Smythe is the ‘tanned, stunningly handsome, impossibly blonde’ charismatic captain of everything at school. And Mr Caruthers, an extremely tall teacher with an infamous stare.

A variety of illustrations are scattered throughout. The black-and-white illustrations match the light comic tone of the text. I love the picture of Jake's mother abseiling down from their tree house after bringing them a snack. There are useful charts, such as the one demonstrating the range of Mr Caruthers' stares from Level-1: freeze a fruit fly, through Level-6: shut down a great white shark, to Level-10: turn a recipient to stone; character description; and rules for teachers and bullies. 

Each chapter begins with a fact from ‘The Ninja Warriors Handbook, Volume 27': 

A ninja’s garments should always be black, unless he finds himself in a 
snowstorm, then white is preferred. If a ninja is hiding amongst a herd of 
zebras, then a combination of the two is advised.

The corners of the pages become a flick book and you can watch Pongo bounce up and down on his pogo stick. The front cover has a hologram. Depending on which angle you look at it from, it shows four nerds in school uniform, or four ninjas ready for action.

The dialogue is fabulous. The banter between the friends is witty and very funny. My eleven year old son and I spent much time chuckling our way through the list of Veejay's fears, such as Arachibutyrophobia: fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth. Then there’s the list his mother has written to excuse him from various activities like Right Turns: Veejay prefers to turn left at roundabouts, so Veejay is banned from any excursions that would require the school bus to turn right. Veejay, it is pointed out, is a ‘complex guy’.

This is a fun and easy book to read. It did not take a predictable path and I enjoyed my time with the Nerdy Ninjas. I think young boys are going to love this and I feel it is perfect for reluctant readers.

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