Jack B. Ninja by Tim McCanna

Do you love stories with surprise twists at the end? We do! From Chris Van Allsburg’s ever-present twist of fate to the laugh-inducing surprise at the end of one of our newest favorites (Spencer’s New Pet by Jessie Sima), we’ll read these books over and over and over again, even once we know what to anticipate. Once the magic of the surprise draws us in, we reread and reread again, looking for clues or ways that we may have predicted that twist all along. Jack B. Ninja, by Tim McCanna and illustrated by Stephen Savage, is another recent find with a delightful surprise at the end!

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Inspired by the nursery rhyme “Jack Be Nimble,” Jack B. Ninja features Jack, a ninja-in-training who is sent out on his own to complete an evening mission. McCanna’s rhythm rolls off of your tongue, much as we see Jack rolling across the pages… He’s paced this perfectly for a read-aloud that builds action and suspense, with short, staccato phrases when we want Jack to move fact, and slower, longer sentences and words just when we may need to rest.

In fact, McCanna’s use of fast-paced rhythm and rhyme in Jack B. Ninja make this book a blast to read aloud. Though suspenseful, this isn’t ever exactly scary, so children are drawn in just enough to want to see how Jack’s mission will play out. Budding readers may delight in being able to predict some of the text and words, and all will happily rejoice when the end goal of Jack’s mission is finally revealed.

Stephen Savage’s illustrations (you may know his work from Where’s Walrus? and Sign Off, among others) are bold and crisp, perfect for a ninja story! His characters are shown in mostly silhouette form against simple backgrounds completed in various shades of one color. Astute observers may notice features of the background that reflect Japan, which may lead to some interesting conversations about geography and architecture.

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Do you know Tim McCanna’s books? Check them out if you don’t! We personally love Watersong and Teeny Tiny Trucksbut he’s also got some really fun read-aloud books full of rhythms and musical sounds!

For more birthday book ideas (I didn’t want to give away any of the ending, but I needed to make this connection for you!), be sure to check out my list of favorite birthday books here. You can bet I’m adding Jack B. Ninja to my list right now!

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