By: Masashi Kishimoto; Adapted by Tracey West
Publisher: Viz Media/Vizkids
Age Rating: 7-10
Genre: action, fantasy
Naruto is an immensely popular title both here and in Japan. Every time a new volume of the manga comes out, it hits the USA Today’s Top 150 Booklist, and is often the only manga to do so. However, this title is written for teens, so Viz has taken it upon itself to make this title available to younger readers with a new line of chapter books only available in the US.
The first volume, Naruto: The Boy Ninja, takes the first chapter of the manga and adapts it not just into novelization, but also in terms of it’s audience. Naruto is an orphan growing up by himself in the ninja village of the Hidden Leaf. He is a troublemaker and class clown, but at the same time wants to be one day recognized as the Hokage, greatest ninja and leader of the village. His only problem is, he’s not any good at ninjitsu. He fails to pass the final test and receive the headband embossed with a leaf and shows he’s graduated to being a ninja. One of his teachers, Mizuki offers to help Naruto, but he seems to have more than just Naruto’s well being in mind.
The adaptation of the first few chapters from manga to prose came out very well. The writer, Tracey West has extensive experience not just with books for children, but also with adapting Japanese properties to chapter books, as she also wrote the Pokemon chapter books. She captures to feel of the characters and story very well, perfectly putting Kishimoto’s pictures into words. Nothing is lost in the translation not only from Japanese to English, but also into terms a younger reader can understand. At the end of the book there is also a glossary of Ninja terms explaining the most common words used in the book such as Hokage and Shuriken.
Different fonts are used throughout the book, sometimes simulating sound effects as in the manga, or to give emphasis to certain lines. It is used sparingly but to great effect. The lines highlighted are often key to the story and may help in comprehension. Art from the original manga is also used as the illustrations, so they fit with the corresponding scenes perfectly, and sometimes includes the lines from the manga.
Naruto is an action story, there is some fighting. These mostly involve knifes called Kunai, being thrown, but no one is seriously injured, and these scenes are not shown in the art. There is also some mystic arts, when Naruto saves the day by creating an army of duplicates of himself called Shadow Doppelgangers to stop Mizuki and save Iruka.
Overall though, as a parent, I think this book is perfectly appropriate for an elementary school library or children’s section. The subject matter will appeal to both boys and girls. My 9 year old daughter enjoyed this book a lot, giving it a score of 5 out of 5, and calling if "funny" and "cool". This title would be a good and safe addition to any library, at home or school.
This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by the publisher. Cover art © 2008 Viz Media