Dojo Surprise, by Chris Tougas; Owl Books, $16.95, 32 pages, ages 3-6.
The ninja master thinks he’s all alone at Dojo Daycare. After all, it’s early in the morning, and his charges haven’t arrived yet. But whither the strange noises, shadows, and–is that dragon drool on the floor? While Master wrestles with his daybreak demons, six little ninja boys and girls sneak into the complex to arrange a birthday surprise for their kindly yet befuddled teacher. This charming offering by award-winning Canadian author-illustrator Chris Tougas is the third in his Ninja series, though Dojo Surprise certainly stands on its own without any prior introduction. Written in bouncy rhyming couplets, young readers will enjoy knowing about the birthday secret before Master is, and the text offers opportunities for active reading participation. Tougas’ digital renderings of a slumbering, semi-conscious ninja master and his delightfully enthusiastic students are bright, engaging, and full of movement. Little ninjas will do roundhouse kicks for the opportunity to read this book.