Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Between by Vienna Teng.
This was originally an idea from Au Courant started in March, an idea she has graciously let me run with.
The idea is to introduce you to unknown, forgotten, or overlooked fiction that has been lost from regular radar. I am WriterGirl. I am in the business of saving lives, one book at a time.
What I do is go to amazon, narrow it down to a YA field and type in a random word, any word that comes to mind. I then take a sampling of some I have never heard of before, or only vaguely heard of (and hopefully you as well). No infringement is intended for any description I take for the books. It's purely for promotional reasons. I will try and cover as many genres as possible that are fitting for the random word. Simple but it really uncovers some incredible gems. I will be doing this every other Monday. If there are any words you want to prompt me with, go ahead and fire away.
Blue Fingers: A Ninja's Tale by Cheryl Aylward Whitesel
An adventure set in 16th-century Japan. Because twins are believed to be bad luck, Kojiro and Taro's parents have always tried to conceal the fact that they have two sons, not one. After Taro saves the life of a master dye maker, the man wants to reward his rescuer with an apprenticeship. The boys' parents send Koji instead, hoping the dyer will not notice the difference, but the artisan soon grows impatient with Koji's clumsy ways and sends him home. Shamed, Koji runs away and is captured in the forest by people who call themselves "grass," but who are, as he soon realizes, ninja--a mysterious group with impressive skills who have set themselves up against the ruling samurai. Under the demanding tutorial of his captor, a boy only slightly older, and other instructors, Koji grows beyond his fears and self-pity, develops a more accurate vision of himself and his society as well as a strong body, and finally becomes the ninja Blue Fingers. The author throws light on Koji's sense of failure, as well as the historical roots of the ninja and their true--rather than pop culture--goals. The plot is filled with twists and turns involving hidden identity, warfare, and the ways in which a warlord's superstitions can be used against him. Both rousing and thoughtful, this novel opens an unfamiliar time to most readers and offers an accurate look at these secretive warriors.--Coop Renner, Fairmeadows Elementary, Duncanville, TX
Blood Ninja by Nick Lake
Lake deftly blends sixteenth-century Japanese samurai history with vampire mythology to concoct a gory and fast-paced adventure that will grab readers. Overwhelming interest in manga often extends to interest in Japanese history, and Lake’s focus on swordplay will carry along those who don’t relish the historical element. Teenage Taro, a misfit among the peasants of his fishing village, finds himself pursued by ninja mysteriously intent on killing him; is saved by a “good” ninja, who turns him into a vampire; and becomes a ninja himself. There’s plenty of decapitation and seppuku, light romance, and unsuspected royal lineage, but the main premise—that all ninjas are vampires—drives the story and works surprisingly well. Plucky female characters with martial-arts skills may not be historically accurate but are lots of fun. Lake has clearly studied Japanese history and mythology, and he offers a tangible appreciation of the culture. The cliff-hanger ending will leave readers clamoring for a sequel. --Debbie Carton (Booklist)
Mail Order Ninja, Vol. 1 by Joshua Elder
What could be better than having a ninja at your command? That's what little Timmy McAllister is about to find out. Timmy is considered a dork; he and best friend Herman Poindexter are tormented by the school bullies, and even Timmy's little sister joins forces with the bullies to make his life miserable. One day, when he comes home from school, he finds a catalog that offers a mail-order ninja. Unable to resist this, Timmy sends the mailer in. Two to three weeks later, ninja Yoshida Juro arrives and Timmy's life is instantly changed. With Yoshida in his corner, Timmy is emboldened to take on the bullies—and even his evil little sister! Laugh out loud funny and highly appealing, Elder's story is one that will charm many middle school students. Though a story about ninjas, the fighting is akin to that found on Saturday morning cartoons, and there is no blood or overly violence depictions portrayed. The manga-style illustrations will be an easy selling point for most kids—the high-action ninjas fighting, and the female characters reminiscent of popular Bratz dolls—that will make this volume fly off the shelves. Elder has created a highly likeable story—and after all, what kid wouldn't want his own ninja?
Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo by Greg Leitich Smith
Poor Elias. Secretly in love with one of his best friends, Honoria, he is constantly reminded that she likes Shohei, another seventh-grader at their Chicago magnet school. Shohei can't see it--he's too busy writing anonymous e-mail love letters to Honoria for Eli. Both boys are pushed by their parents into the science fair, which Honoria hopes to win by turning her pet piranhas into vegetarians. When Elias stumbles on the brilliant plan of reproducing one of his brother's award-winning experiments, Shohei begs to be his partner. The plan backfires and lands Elias in Student Court. Honoria's brilliant strategy for Eli's defense means a crisis of conscience for Shohei, who will have to admit that he has copied his experiment's results. Alternating first-person narratives make for a fast-paced, hilarious send-up of school life. Smith achieves just the right balance of intelligent wit and drama in his first novel. Louise Brueggeman (Booklist)
Firestorm: The Caretaker Trilogy: Book 1 by David Klass
Klass enters exciting and provocative new territory with this sci-fi thriller. Seventeen-year-old Jack Danielsons life has always been normal–except that his parents have encouraged him to blend in and not try too hard. But then he learns that he is different, that he has special powers and abilities, and that he is from the future and has been sent back to save the planet. Strangers kill his adoptive parents and come after him, and the teens only hope to survive is to trust in Gisco, a huge dog who speaks to him telepathically, and Eko, a ninja babe whose loyalties are ambiguous. The writing is fluid and graceful in places. The sobering events and tone are leavened with engaging humor, and the characters are multidimensional. The relentless pace, coupled with issues of ecology, time travel, self-identity, and sexual awakening, makes for a thrilling and memorable read. The cliff-hanger ending will make readers hope that Klasss work on book two of the trilogy is well under way.–Melissa Moore, Union University Library, Jackson, TN (School Library Journal)
Academy Days by Tyler Webster.
A fun book with little plot, no deep meaning, and no morals. It won't compel you to do anything but laugh until your sides hurt.
Academy Days is a non-epic saga of one boy's quest to master the martial arts, fit in at his new school, and find something in the cafeteria he can actually eat. Containing elements of fantasy, science fiction, humor, and more humor, Academy Days is one book that definitely must be read before death.
Naruto, Vol. 1 by Masashi Kishimoto
Naruto Uzumaki is a young boy who has the demon of the Nine-Tailed Fox sealed within him. Twelve years before, the Nine-Tailed Demon Fox attacked the ninja village Konoha, slaughtering many people. In response, the leader of Konoha (and its ninja military) – the Fourth Hokage – sacrificed his life to seal the demon inside Naruto when he was a baby. Konoha, however, regarded Naruto as if he were the demon fox itself and mistreated him throughout most of his childhood. A decree made by the Third Hokage, (who replaced the Fourth), forbade anyone mention the attack of the demon fox to anyone else. This included Naruto, who was not aware of the demon inside of him.
Years later, Naruto is tricked by a ninja Mizuki into stealing a forbidden scroll. The encounter leads Naruto to realize that he is the container of the demon fox.
Naruto is a plucky prankster whose ultimate goal is to be the world's greatest ninja. His teachers and classmates think he's a joke and a nuisance. And Naruto himself thinks he's going to be the best ninja that ever lived. Only he'll have to prove to everyone that he's more than what they see of him.
[My note: This is one of the most popular manga series in Japan and the US. If you are thinking of trying a hand and dipping into manga, this may be a good place to start. Hence its inclusion here. It's a series I really enjoy.]