Blue Fingers

Blue Figners

Author: Cheryl Aylward Whitesel

Publication: Clarion Books, 2004

Pages: 256

Overall Rating:  bth_3-star-rating_zps73bdba73[1]                      

Rating for Action: bth_15_zps345ebc9e[1]

Quantity of Action:  bth_1-star-rating_zpseb48ae1d[1]

Age Category: 9-12

Brief Summary:  Koji’s identical twin, Taro, rescues Lord Oda’s master dye maker from drowning.  The dye maker offers Taro an apprenticeship, but their parents decide to send Koji in his place.  Koji is homesick and messes up so often that the dye maker finally has to send him home.  Taro yells at Koji, blaming him for stealing his one chance at a better life and then wasting it.  Burning with shame, Koji runs away into the forbidden mountains near his village and stumbles upon a hidden ninja camp.  The ninja take him prisoner and tell him can never leave.  After finally earning their trust, Koji is trained as a ninja and sent on a dangerous mission against Lord Oda.

Age of Main Character: 12

What I Liked the Most: Whitesal does an excellent job painting a picture of life in 16th century Japan.  From clothing to customs, the setting feels authentic.  I particularly liked the way that Whitesal described the life and culture of the ninja.  She managed to show a great deal about how ninja trained and lived without ever making it feel like a lecture.  Koji is thrown into ninja culture and has to learn as he goes, and we get to learn right alongside him.

What I Liked the Least: In many ways it felt Koji learned too quickly.  The other young ninja at the camp have been training since birth.  Koji doesn’t start until he’s 12, but after a few short months he’s going out on missions and has become a full fledged ninja.  It all felt too fast, especially for someone who starts off the story as immature and weak.

Initially, Lord Oda sounds like nothing more than a local warlord, the daimyo of a relatively small castle within walking distance of Koji’s village.  And yet later in the book he sends his army out to challenge the shogun, the most powerful military ruler in Japan.  As with Koji’s rapid progression as a ninja, it felt unrealistic.

How Good was the Action?  For a ninja story, there’s very little action.  Koji’s missions against Lord Oda consist mostly of observation and trickery.  There are a couple of brief fights, mostly among the ninja themselves, but this book is really more about ninja culture and the ways that the ninja manage to accomplish their goals without fighting.

How Engaging was the Story?   I started off not liking Koji very much.  He was too whinny for my taste.  But as the novel progressed and Koji found his place within the ninja clan, I began to find the book more engaging.  I liked his interaction with Spider, his ninja mentor.  And while he progressed far too quickly to be realistic, the training itself was very cool.

Overall Assessment: This is an interesting if fairly light weight book.  It provides a good glimpse into ninja culture and is an excellent choice for anyone who wants to know more about the ninja without finding themselves awash in blood and gore.

Profanity: None

Sex: None

Violence: Minimal

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