Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Samurai Kids Book 7: Red Fox

Samurai Kids Book 7: Red Fox by Sandy Fussell, illustrated by Rhian Nest-James (Walker Books)
PB RRP $ 15.95
ISBN 9781922077509
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

The Sea Dragon is shipwrecked and Sensei and the Little Cockroaches, working as crew, are cast into the sea. Niya awakes alone. With a sprained ankle, and having lost his crutch, he drags himself and whatever useful debris that has washed up, to a place of shelter.

Beneath his makeshift cover, he imagines the worst about his friends. He believes he is being taken prisoner when men come and carry him away to their village nearby.  But relief replaces anxiety when Chen appears and hospitality is offered. Sensei’s teachings regarding respect for the customs of the people they encounter are adhered to in return.

Youke, a princess that has chosen not ‘to live life as a caged bird’ is passing through the village with her companion Somnang, who chooses not to speak. The two samurai believe if their companions are alive, they’d be headed to the temple at Angkor. Youke offers to show them the way. Unexpected adventures and many dangers challenge the group from the outset of their journey, beginning with Niya being bitten by a snake in the forest. During his delirium, Sensei’s voice in his head directs him to the monks’ temple.

Niya’s hopes soar when a passing traveller informs the group that another boy wearing the same clothes, who is ‘blind, but it’s as if he can see’, is in his village.

Chen makes a friend of the silent Somnang through their mutual interest in drawing and the journey is filled with creating maps and images of the birds they encounter.

At the temple they reunite with Sensei and the others except for Yoshi, who is now receiving medical treatment at the King’s palace after being hurt while saving a girl from a tiger.

But a new threat enters the lives of the Little Cockroaches and Sensei in the form of Chan-Zen, a noted physician visiting the temple. The group is immediately uncomfortable in his presence and sense he is not what he appears to be. They are forced to accept his company as they travel towards Yoshi in Udong. There are challenges and moral dilemmas for the group to work through, while Chen makes a life-changing decision. They must look to Sensei’s teachings to do the right thing at all times, adhering to the samurai code of chi, jin, yu – wisdom, benevolence and courage.

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