The creators of The Three Ninja Pigs kick up the high—or rather hi-yah—intensity with another fractured fairy tale. Starting where the previous book ended, the hungry and defeated wolf secretly enrolls in a martial arts school, where he “jackknifed and flipped / and at last felt equipped / to once again catch a good meal.” When he meets Red deep in a bamboo forest, the carnivore quickly thinks up a plan to score a treat.

As the wolf beats Red to her grandmother’s house and dresses up in one of the grandmother’s kimonos, young readers will recognize many elements from the original tale. But before the wolf can gobble up Red, she tears off her cloak to strike a defensive pose . . . because she went to ninja school, too! Santat shows off his animation skills with digitally enhanced illustrations featuring comic-style, action-packed frames with Japanese cultural details. They serve the story well as the wolf and Red spar in an even match.

The rhythmic rhyme sets the hilarious tone in this energetic story. And in one of the funniest twists, it’s not the woodsman but a gi-clad Gran, back from tai chi, who helps save the day. After the wolf concedes and there are polite bows all around, Gran encourages the wolf to relieve his stress with some yoga instead. A familiar story wrapped in combat and humor—what more could a budding ninja want?

 

This article was originally published in the July 2014 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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