Many people wonder, and a few brave souls even ask, if my husband and I planned to have four children. The surprising answer to most is that, yes, yes we did hope to have four kids. Four seems like the perfect round number, everyone always has someone they can get along with for that moment, no one is ever naturally excluded (my lone son may have something to say about this after seeing his sister’s notebook that read, “The Secret Sister’s Club”), and there is a built-in, substantial group of friends to play with at all times.
Now that our youngest child is about to turn five, these theories, for the most part, are finally proving true. There are natural pairings among the four, but on any given day, for seemingly any random reason, those friendships strain. The effected children are able to find different siblings to
commiserate play with relatively effortlessly. Secret Sister Club’s aside, there are very few times when an odd sibling is, intentionally, left out. It is also true that they now have a small village to play with every day before and after school. Our house and backyard sound like it, too.
Lately, as all of our neighbors can attest, the kids have been playing a game they call “Ninja Training.” Which is awesome, except that in all of their research, they have failed to realize rule number one of ninja-ing: SILENCE! I need to give them one of my favorite shirts (which you can find on Woot.com).
“Ninja Training” works like this:
- My second born is the Ninja Trainer, always.
- She teaches the others her stealthy moves.
- They try to always stay in the shadows.
- They try to blend in with their surroundings.
- They try to move with extreme caution (though, again, silence seems of no import).
- They learn to fight with some pretty sweet, made up moves.
“Ninja Training” takes place anytime, anywhere: in the car, in the hallway, on the walk to school, at the table, while going to bed. But their favorite place to play is in the trampoline, in the dark. The trainer has a flashlight and the ninjas have to sneak around the trampoline in the shadows and scare the trainer. It is hilarious, often violent, and always noisy (really, why can’t they get the silence component!).
There is just something universally awesome about ninjas. They embody mystery and adventure, poise and control. It is an irresistible combination of imaginative thrill for children. A thrill they like to incorporate into every facet of their lives, including the literary. I know it is not actually true that my children have read every ninja picture book there is, but I am pretty sure they have read every ninja picture book there is! And there are some very good ones:
Nighttime Ninja (Barbara DeCosta) – This is one of my favorite birthday presents for little kids (don’t worry, I give them other things too, not only one small book). This little ninja fulfills every child’s fantasy of sneaking through the house in the middle of the night in search of the forbidden!
N.D. Wilson – Hello Ninja is a fantastic ninja rhyming adventure for the younger kids in your life. Ninja Boy Goes to School is the perfect book for the child who doesn’t want to take their ninja costume off as they head off to school.
Chris Tougas – Dojo Daycare is a hilarious book that leaves every child I have ever read it to laughing and KA-POWing. It is a remarkably relatable tale for those of us reading it, as well! You have definitely felt like this dojo master at the end of the day! Dojo Daytrip and Dojo Surprise follow in the same vein. These are very fun books.
Corey Rosen Schwartz – Schwartz has cornered the market on turning fairy tales into ninja stories, which does not sound like something that should work. I was skeptical at first, but these books are funny and children love them! Be sure to check out The Three Ninja Pigs, Ninja Red Riding Hood, Hensel & Gretel: Ninja Chicks.
Little Kunoichi The Ninja Girl (by Sanae Ishida) – My girls loved reading this book. It is still rare to find ninja books that feature girls. As if that weren’t enough, the story is actually good.
The Boy Who Cried Ninja (Alex Latimer) – An active imagination can be a burden when amazing things keep happening and no one will believe you!
Magic Treehouse: Night of the Ninjas (Mary Pope Osborne) – This is book 5 of the Magic Treehouse series and one of my kids’ favorites. It now comes with a companion, Magic Treehouse Fact Tracker: Ninjas and Samurai.
When the books no longer suffice, I give you this song, Ninja by Slugs and Bugs.