September 29, 2015

Dojo Daytrip

by Chris Tougas
Owlkids Books
32 pp.
Ages 3-7
September 2015

They may be ninjas but they are still children:  boisterous, inquisitive, energetic and rowdy.  And a field trip with Master to a farm doesn't do anything but fuel their fires!  Remember Chris Tougas' six little ninjas from Dojo Daycare (Owlkids Books, 2014)?  Well, they're back and as effervescent as a newly opened pop bottle.

And Master must feel the same way as the six ninjas–never named but each unique and recognizable by hair or lack thereof–explode off the bus and begin to explore and cause ninja mayhem! But, it's Master who continues to find himself in buckets of awkwardness: falling in the pigs' trough, or running from a bull, or spooking a horse.  The little ninjas have just not been paying attention, distracted by the chicks, or other farmyard entities, and
It's a big barnyard disaster!
No one's there to save the Master.
The ninjas all forgot their creed:
Always help someone in need.
But after a few "Yikes!" and "Yee-ow!" moments, the ninjas realize the Master needs help and they jump in to make things right.  It's a full day of activities and activity and rhyming and word play, and it's not surprising that the little ones seem tired on the road home, though a taurine stowaway suggests more mayhem is in their future.

Dojo Daytrip is a fun romp at the farm with Chris Tougas' agile ninjas and their adult wrangler, reminiscent of many school field trips with their "if something can do wrong, it will" moments.  But Chris Tougas twists that story line by having the Master at the heart of the craziness and allowing the little ninjas to solve the problems and go beyond the call of duty.  The Master may be harping on the little ones forgetting their creed but they're just too busy having fun.  Chris Tougas' words are light and rhythmic and work so well with his bold characters and sparse settings.  It's a fast read, perfect for a read-aloud before a school trip, but take the time to notice all the details like the red scarf that riles the bull, or the one farting ninja, or the little chicks that wave good-bye, or the ninja teddy-bear.  There's a richness of details and facial expressions and such that add so much to the simple story of helping out those in need that Dojo Daytrip will be a fun keeper to use in the classroom for field trip prep, for rhyming exemplars and for a pastural past-time without getting on a bus.

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