The Boy Who Cried Ninja, by Alex Latimer (2011, Peachtree Publishers)
Tim is a boy who is hard to believe. The first page reveals that he has told stories about mermaids and unicorns and a free lunch–and everyone knows that there is no such thing! (Seriously, I guffawed out loud on that page!) Tim’s mother doesn’t believe that a ninja ate the last piece of cake. His dad doesn’t believe that an astronaut borrowed his hammer. And his grandfather doesn’t believe that a giant squid ate his whole book bag (including his homework). Tim’s parents sentenced him to hard yard work for his lies. The thing is, Tim wasn’t lying about those things, so he decided he would be better off if he did lie! So he took the blame for a pirate drinking all the tea, the sunburned crocodile that broke the TV antenna, and the time-traveling monkey who threw pencils at his grandfather while he was sleeping. But he still had to do yard work for “all the bad things he’d done”! Tim decided to do something about the misunderstanding and sent invitations to all the guilty parties, inviting them to a celebration at his house on Saturday. His family was certainly surprised to find a ninja, astronaut, giant squid, pirate, crocodile, and time-traveling monkey at their door, and they were certainly sorry that they had accused Tim of lying (to the tune of 100 ice creams’ restitution). They were also pretty upset with the visitors, and they had them “rake all the leaves in the yard and think about what [they’d] done.” And afterward, they had a party, and no one did anything naughty.
The illustrations were “created as pencil drawings, digitized, then finished with color and texture.” Because of both the style and the way they convey much of the story, the illustrations have a definite graphic novel feel (but without the framing most graphic novels use). There are many little touches that will make the adult or older child reader laugh, such as the framed memento labeled “Grampa’s Moustache” and the tiny piles of steaming poo placed surreptitiously among the images of leaves to rake when the parents were punishing the interlopers. (Their dejected little silhouettes in the latter image are also pretty funny!) Almost every time you read this book, you’ll notice something new. This was the author’s first book for children, and he totally nailed it for a young audience with a quirky sense of humor!
GirlChild’s Reactions: This book was more for the grown-up readers in this house than for my preschooler, but GirlChild still enjoyed it! Both ResidentAunt and I cackled merrily at several things as we each read it to GirlChild, and I have noticed more funny details in the art every time I’ve read it. (Um, to GirlChild. Yeah. Not just to myself.) I can tell that each of us (Daddy included!) has read this to her more than once because she is able to quote lines and read the speech bubbles in the art that I sometimes skip. She says she likes the party the best because of all the fun things they’re doing; a savvier reader would be catching and enjoying more of the humor. When I asked her what she learned from this book, she said she learned not to lie. When I asked her what she thinks Mommy learned from this book, she said that I learned that I should believe her. Now, if only that weren’t so hard sometimes…! Recommended for quirky elementary readers for best effect.