Red Fox by Sandy Fussell

Sandy Fussell, illustrated by Rhian Nest-James

Samurai Kids 7

Walker Books (2012)

ISBN: 9781922077509 


Reviewed by Miffy Faquharson

With the Samurai Kids series, Sandy Fussell has created a wonderful world. The children of the Cockroach Ryu are resilient warriors: if they fall down, they get up again. And they fall down a lot!

Each of the Samurai Kids has a disability. In White Crane we meet Niya, a one-legged boy, but all of the kids have different abilities and skills that contribute to the whole group. Kyoko has six fingers and six toes on each hand and foot; Mikko has only one arm; Yoshi is big and strong, but he is a peaceful soul who prefers not to fight; Taji is blind; Nezume and Chen join the group late in the series; and Sensei, or Ki-Yaga, is their teacher, dumped on the scrapheap because he is growing old, but this wily wizard has experience and skill that are not apparent on the outside.

In this, the second-last instalment of the series, the Samurai Kids have been shipwrecked in the Gulf of Siam (Thailand). This story opens with Niya washed up alone and unwell on the shore. The ship they have been travelling on, Chen’s pirate-uncle’s boat Sea Dragon, has gone to the bottom of the ocean, and it looks as though Niya is the only survivor. Injured, worried, thirsty and hungry, Niya curls up on the beach in despair. But when he awakens, it is to the sight of five men in a circle around him. Niya is their prisoner! Will he ever see is friends again?

Consistent themes across the series include teamwork, feeling inadequate, belonging, family and wisdom. Each of the Samurai kids has ‘starred’ in their own book (they each have an animal ‘spirit’) but whole ryu always works together in each story to complete the quest. The children are fabulously ‘drawn’ by both Fussell and James, and reading each book feels like coming back to ‘family’.

Recommended for upper primary and beyond.

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