Friday, November 14, 2014

Tales of Bunjitsu Bunny

In my family not one but two of my sisters are black belts. All four of my nephews have studied various martial arts, and my 13-year-old niece is a kick-ass student of tae-kwan-do. Me, I stick to yoga. All this is to say that through the years I've become acquainted with the tenets behind martial arts. And that's why I can highly recommend Tales of Bunjitsu Bunny, a beginning chapter book featuring Isabel, the BEST bunjitsu artist in her school (dojo).

Isabel encapsulates the underlying philosophy of martial arts. As she eloquently states, "Bunjitsu is not just about kicking, hitting, and throwing….It's about finding ways to NOT kick, hit, and throw." Each short chapter demonstrates a Zen-like lesson that is thought-provoking rather than didactic. In "The Challenge" a big and burly jackrabbit dares Isabel to meet him in the marsh for a fight, vowing to hit her so hard that she will "fly to the moon." He waits and waits, but she never shows up. Max finds her and asks if she lost on purpose. But she didn't lose, Isabel tells her friend. "He did not hit me." This is not to say that readers won't find some serious fighting in the book. In "The Pirates" Isabel battles a boatload of foxy pirates, while in "Bearjitsu Bear" Isabel seemingly takes abuse from a boastful bear until she shows him who's boss.

Author  and illustrator John Himmelman, a martial arts instructor, based Isabel on one of his students.  Since girls often get short shrift when it comes to combat sports, Isabel's feisty attitude is an especially welcome addition to the world of chapter books.

Tales of Bunjitsu Bunny
By John Himmelman
Henry Holt, 128 pages
Published: October 2014