Tales of Bunjitsu Bunny by John Himmelman, 112 pp, RL 3
Tales of Bunjitsu Bunny by John Himmelman is fantastically out of the ordinary. Simply written and elegantly illustrated, Tales of Bunjitsu Bunny is filled with chapter after chapter of stories that echo Aesop's fables and Zen-type lessons. Himmelman's book is perfect for emerging readers ready to move onto chapter books and also great for bedtime stories and dinner table discussions alike! Isabel, the bunjitsu bunny of the title, may be able to throw farther, kick higher and hit harder than anyone else at her school, but her strongest resource is her mind. Bunjitsu isn't just about kicking, hitting and throwing - it's about finding ways NOT to kick, hit and throw. Best of all, back matter in Tales of Bunjitsu Bunny includes the Bunjitsu Code and an interview with Himmelman, where I learned that he and fellow author Ed Ricciuti opened their own martial arts studio in Connecticut where he teaches and practices Hapkido and Jeet Kune Do. Green Hill Martial arts is also where Himmelman got some of his original inspiration for this series. In fact, he used the names of actual students and you can see their actual signatures on the Bunjitsu Code!
In spite of this, sometimes you do have to use your bunjitsu moves and this is what young readers will love about Isabel and the Tales of Bunjitsu Bunny. In the chapter titled, "The Pirates," Isabel is attacked by pirates demanding her treasure, food. When she has nothing to give, they decide to throw her into the sea. Isabel uses her bunjitsu moves to flip, kick and throw the pirates out of their boat and into hers, while she sails off in their bigger, nicer boat.
In the chapter titled, "Butterfly," Teacher gives his bunjitsu students an assignment: they must study an animal and, in their next class, fight like it. Isabel observes a butterfly in the meadow, his unexpected moves giving her an advantage over her classmates who studied cats and bears. When Betsy challenges Isabel, she finds her match! Asking who has won, Teacher replies, "There will be no winner. Now let's sit and enjoy two butterflies in the meadow." There isn't always a clear lesson or moral to Isabel's antics in Tales of Bunjitsu Bunny, but that doesn't make the book any less enjoyable - it just makes reader think. And anything that gets kids thinking is good in my book!
There's more Bunjitsu Bunny to love!