Series: Samurai Kids #1
Published by Walker Childrens on March 1st 2008
Niya Moto is the only one-legged Samurai kid in Japan, famous for falling flat on his face in the dirt. The one school that will accept him is the Cockroach Ryu, led by the legendary sensei Ki-Yaga. He may be an old man overly fond of naps, but Ki-Yaga is also known for taking in kids that the world has judged harshly: an albino girl with extra fingers and toes, a boy who is blind, a big kid whose past makes his loath to fight. A warrior in his time, Ki-Yaga demands excellence in everything from sword-fighting to poetry. But can the rag-tag Cockroaches make the treacherous journey to the Samurai Trainee Games, never mind take on the all-conquering Dragons? In a fast-moving, action-filled tale that draws on true details of feudal Japan, Niya finds there's no fear they can't face as long as they stick together - for their friendship is more powerful than a samurai sword.
Short & Sweet: Niyo is a one-legged samurai kid who is training with Ki-Yaga of the Cockroach Ryu. All of Ki-Yaga's students are overcoming a form of disadvantage and they do not believe they can win the Samurai Trainee Games, but will compete all the same. These students may be missing a leg, an arm, or even eyesight, but they have an inner strength that may help them overcome the fierce Dragon Ryu. I was pleasantly surprised by this book, which had a lot of struggles within. Not only did these characters struggle, but the characters were so unique in personality and skill, they were unforgettable. The illustrations within the novel add an extra depth to the story's setting and characters. Not only was White Crane an entertaining read, but there was a lot to the characters and how they dealt with their weaknesses.
Final Verdict: White Crane is a great start to a new series that reads easily and has a complex plot with many different themes that readers will be able to connect to. I think this one has some great boy appeal as well, as samurai wield swords (what could be cooler than that?).