Samurai Kids: Shaolin Tiger by Sandy Fussell

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Walker Books, 2009. ISBN 9781921150906.
(Ages 10 and up) Travelling with five of his students from the Cockroach Ryu (school), Sensei the teacher, introduced as a wizard and once famous Samurai warrior, escorts the group on a journey across the Sea of Japan to China. Here they are to assist the Shaolin monks to protect a Temple which is under threat from one of Sensei's old students, an evil man wishing to gain his revenge and kill his ex-teacher. Despite each of the students having what would be seen by others to have a disability; they each have their own talents which compensate for these problems. The students each travel with their various spirits which assist them in their quest.
From the outset, things begin to go wrong. The ship's captain drowns, leading to the inclusion of another girl who is to act as their guide. Danger is present at all times and Sensei teaches his students to be vigilant, instructing them via teachings from Confucius and the Zen masters.
Although this is the third book in the series, it stands alone quite comfortably. I for one will now have to read the preceding books and eagerly await the next. There is a sense of magic or fantasy throughout the book, as well as a certain amount of humour and instructions on how to conduct oneself throughout life. This is a story written on many levels and would make a great title for use in literature circles or as a class text. Teacher support materials for the earlier titles are available on the internet.
Jo Schenkel