A boy ninja without an orange jumpsuit? Inconceivable! But here is Hiro, the youngest son in a family of ninjas charged with protecting their village. When the evil ninja Fujita threatens not just their village, but the entire kingdom, Hiro must join his family in a race to stop Fujita despite still being in training.
Hiro’s Quest Volume 1-2
By Tracey West; Illustrated by Craig Phillips
Scholastic, Sept. 2009, ISBN: 978-0-545-16288-3
90 pgs., $4.99
The Hiro’s Quest books are not graphic novels, but prose books with illustrations included in every chapter. The text is not embellished, but the illustrations have a comic feel to them, as they have dialog and narration from the text included. Hiro’s Quest is an action/adventure tale that also manages to weave a life lesson into the story.
These first two volumes are two parts of one story. Hiro and his family must recover two powerful medallions before the evil ninja Fujita does. It must be Hiro’s family because their family history is related to the medallions. They are the only ones that can properly use them. The family consists of both parents and two older brothers to Hiro. It’s a good, stable family dynamic with caring parents and annoying brother that tease. Each member of the family feels familiar, but not in a way as to feel stereotypical. Each character has a spirit animal that helps to characterize them, in such a way so that it feels natural rather than tired.
The first book, Enemy Rising, is about finding yourself. Hiro is the only member of his family and friends who has not discovered what his spirit animal is, so he must do so along the way. He discovers it at a pivotal point at the end of the story, which seemed a little cliché to me, but was appropriate to the story and message. Hiro finally succeeds by just being himself and not trying to push himself.
The second book, Into the Fire, picks up where the first left off with Hiro and his family going after the second medallion. This time, the story is about working together. Their parents have been taken, and it up to the kids to find the medallion and save their parents. Though it seems impossible at first, but through trial and error, Hiro and his friends discover a way to get everyone working together and to their strengths.
Overall, I enjoyed reading both of these books. Tracy West seems to have a good feel for what makes a good action story appealing to kids and adults. The action moves at a good pace, never becoming overwhelming, or slowing down too much. Hiro is a very accessable character with his doubts about himself and his ability at first, and his slow growth throughout book 2. He makes a good role model for kids to want to emulate. The messages in the stories do not become preachy or obvious, even though their presence is felt. This is a great series for elementary school students, that both boys and girls can enjoy.
This review is based on a complimentary copy supplied by the publisher. All images copyright © Scholastic.