I am always looking for great books to introduce children to through the Respect Program. In our digital age, getting children to read and discuss great stories with positive messages is more important than ever. I was therefore delighted to read Brook & Brax Undercover Ninjas recently and I want to encourage you to check it out for the children in your life.
The book was written by Antonio Lumley and is ideal for children ages 8-10. The book is 142 pages and has comic book style illustrations at the end of each chapter that summarize the action in that section. Marc Rene does a beautiful job with the illustrations, bringing to life the adventures of Brook and Brax.
The story starts out with an introduction to first graders Brook and Brax, who are best friends. One day they are being bullied by Puke and Lil Dumps. While running away they duck into a store and meet Sensi Iron Post, a wise man who teaches them martial arts.
At first, the two boys think learning martial arts will be easy. However, they soon learn it is a lot of work because “anything as great as being a ninja is not easy to obtain.” We then fast forward five years, all of which they have spent in training. At this point, Sensi Iron Post gives them magical ninja suits to help them to protect those in need. The descriptions of each suit are wonderful.
Once they have their suits to enhance their martial arts skills, they head to school and realize that the students, teachers and principal are in danger. While they have been focusing on their training and classes, they realize that Puke, Lil Dump, and their group of bullies known as the Stank Rebels have taken over most of the school. The Stank Rebels are stealing, taunting, and assaulting adults and students daily and it is up to Brook and Brax to save the day.
One thing that impressed me about this story is that during their battles with Puke, Lil Dump, and the Stank Rebels, the two boys use the minimum force needed in every fight. For example, Book and Brax have ninja suits that can make weapons. At one point, one of the boys makes makes daggers. “Fortunately for the Stank Rebels, these weapons are make of wood instead of metal; therefore, it wouldn’t cut and slice, but it sure would hurt if hit with them.” Deciding to restrain, not destroy, the Stank Rebels is a powerful sign of discipline in both Brook and Brax.
Antonio and his thoughts on bullying are just as interesting as the story. He told me, “I was raised in the inner city of Boston, Massachusetts by my mother in a single parent household. Often times I got bullied as a child by local gangs. So, when Brook & Brax get bullied by Puke, Lil Dumps, and the Stank Rebels, that actually came from my own experiences. Although I did not train in the martial arts, I had to learn on my own how to fight and defend myself or else the cycle would never be broken. I also learned that bullies typically pick on others that they perceive as weak or abnormal, in order to make up for whatever they are lacking mentally, physically, or spiritually. They themselves often come from broken homes and that is one mechanism they use to lash out or find confidence.”
You can definitely see the influence of broken homes in the lives of Puke and Lil Dumps, which also adds an added depth to the story.
Overall, the book is uplifting and entertaining. I hope you will pick up a copy for you and your child to read soon. The story is a great way to remind us all that we can learn to protect ourselves and be supportive of others, especially when we have good friends by our side.