Johnson, Rebecca L. Nature’s Ninja: Animals with Spectacular Skills. Minneapolis, MN: Millbrook Press, an imprint of Lerner Publishing Group, Inc., 2020.
The clever concept of this book makes one think of a Venn diagram showing animals, ninja, and the surprising skills that overlap. The idea works and will make fans of middle grade and middle school students, and probably their teachers and librarians.
It starts with a short introduction to the art of the Ninja, and then move to ninja skill-themed chapters featuring a creature or two with each skill. For example, an Atlantic sailfish uses the art of swordsmanship, or Ken-Jutsu, to make a meal of a school of sardines; a bombardier beetle uses Kayaku-Jutsu (using explosives to distract or defeat opponents) when it blasts a burning hot chemical out of its backside to escape a predator. A section labeled “The Science Behind the Story” always wraps up the chapter and describes how scientists discovered each fascinating skill.
Throughout the book the high-resolution photography is so clear and interesting that readers will linger over the images. The back matter is thorough and even includes information about the inspiration of the book.
Nature’s Ninja would make an excellent addition to any upper elementary or middle school collection; although they may enjoy the pictures, most younger elementary students will find the volume of text a little much.
Dewey: 591.47 Interest Level: Grades 4-9
Reviews and Awards:
Booklist, Kirkus Reviews Starred, School Library Connection, School Library Journal.
Younger readers might like: What are Nature’s Copycats? By Bobbie Kalman
Fiction Pairing: Sword in the Stacks (Ninja Librarians, Book 2) by Jen Swann Downey
On the web: 17 Amazing Animal Defense Mechanisms at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1xpqS1jcJPw