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When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Monday, October 29, 2018

One Very Scary Night Of Fright

It's less than one week until the happy holiday night.  Pumpkins are purchased and carved into jack-o-lanterns.  Homes inside and outside are trimmed in black and orange with webs and spiders, bats and cats, witches and ghosts.  Trick-or-treaters have planned their costumes for months and finishing touches are being added.  Soon they will go door to door hoping for delicious edible goodies.

Halloween is not without the possibility of fear mixed with the fun.  Spooky tales and local legends heighten the atmosphere and anticipation.  Samurai Scarecrow: A Very Ninja Halloween (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, July 24, 2018) written and illustrated by Rubin Pingk (Samurai Santa: A Very Ninja Christmas) is about a full-moon visitor who sings an eerie nighttime melody.

"What was that old
scarecrow rhyme?"
Kashi asked her brother.

Yukio does not hesitate to recite the verses as the two of them walk past a scarecrow.  Laughing as the song ends, the siblings run not wanting to "wake up" the scarecrow.  At home everything Yukio does in preparation for Halloween, Kashi replicates.  It is frustrating for her ninja brother.

That night, Halloween night, ninja friends of Yukio arrive dressed in their costumes. Kashi can hardly wait to show everyone her disguise.  When she steps forward attired as a ninja bird just like her brother, the response of his companions is the final feather for her brother.  His words are crushing.

Kashi refuses to go with the group even after Yukio apologizes.  Five ninjas scamper off into the night.  They merrily go from place to place; their buckets getting heavier and heavier with treats.  

As they head for home a sudden loud noise stops them in their tracks.  When the origin of the sound stomps into view it's a nightmare come true.  Facing fear for the sake of someone dear leads to a heartwarming twist.

By choosing to begin the story with the scary lullaby poem, Rubin Pingk grabs readers' attention immediately.  Throughout the tale he employs the storytelling technique of using three to supply us with a captivating cadence.  The mix of narrative and conversations invites us further into this Halloween night to remember.  Here is a passage.

Kashi wanted to be a NINJA too.
She couldn't wait to start Ninjagarten.

"What is your 
favorite NINJA

"Have you 
ever met a

"How far can
you throw a 
NINJA star?"

She asked A LOT of questions,
and Yukio needed a break.

On the opened and matching dust jacket and book case a scene of a trick-or-treat night fright unfolding is displayed from the left edge to right edge.  There is no doubt in the readers' minds the ninjas are fleeing from their greatest fear.  To the left across the spine we move toward the top of the hill.  A cloud provides a backdrop for dark, leafless trees, scattered pumpkins and a lone crow.  Rubin Pingk introduces us to his limited but highly effective color palette on the jacket and case.

The opening and closing endpapers feature enlarged Halloween treats decorated with a jack-o-lantern grin, a ghostly smile and a flying bat.  On the first set the right side becomes the title page.  Digitally rendered the illustrations convey a wonderfully proper atmosphere.  

Red autumn leaves flutter on nearly every page creating a flow as do the pumpkins and darkened trees reaching like giant fingers. White becomes an important element in most of the images as the background.  Rubin Pingk alternates between double-page pictures and full-page visuals.  He shifts the perspective, also, to elevate the pacing.  At one very important point, three panels spanning two pages bring us very close to the characters.  Careful readers will appreciate his attention to detail; the designs on the trick-or-treaters' buckets, the presence of the crow, the silhouetted shadows in windows and lights in the jack-o-lanterns as nighttime comes.  

One of my many favorite illustrations is a large inset in a double-page picture.  The five ninjas are going home after a night a trick-or-treating.  On the right framed with two trees and a white branch and leaf border the five have paused.  The word 


is inserted on the page.  The expressions on their faces are sheer dread due to the unknown source of the sound.  They are already imagining what it could be.  This illustration is pure perfection for what the page turn reveals. 

If you are looking for a new holiday read for Halloween, Samurai Scarecrow: A Very Ninja Halloween written and illustrated by Rubin Pingk is loaded with excitement and thrills.  Everything builds, layer by layer, to the surprising conclusion.  This story also addresses sibling relationships and what makes them stronger.  This is an excellent addition for your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Rubin Pingk and his other work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  Rubin maintains accounts on Twitter and Instagram.  To view interior illustrations please take a few moments to visit the publisher's website.  Rubin was recently interviewed by writer and illustrator Jenna Benton.  You will enjoy their conversation.    

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