We are delighted to join the Nonfiction Picture Book meme 2019 hosted by Alyson Beecher @ Kid Lit Frenzy. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading themes throughout the year, when we can.
I learned about this title from a fellow kidlit enthusiast, my linguist friend, who shared a Facebook post of this book featuring a network of female ninjas from Japan. Naturally I had to find it in our libraries!
Written by Tanya Lloyd Kyi Illustrated by Celia Krampien
Published by Annick Press (2017).
ISBN: 1554519659 (ISBN13: 9781554519651)
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.
This book tells the fairly-lengthy story of a Mochizuki Chiyome, whose existence while believed to probably be grounded in reality, remains in question.
According to the Epilogue:
Mochizuki Chiyome was probably real. In the 1600s, Japanese writers and artists created storybooks, the ancestors of today’s graphic novels. Some of these tales featured a woman ninja trainer, a widow who lost her husband and went to work for his uncle, training spies in an undercover school. There are enough of these stories, and enough details to match, to make historians believe Chiyome was a real person.
This was a pretty compelling narrative about a vigilant young woman who trained to become a ninja, then accepted her fate when her family arranged for her marriage to a powerful man’s nephew. The powerful man was Takeda Shingen, a fierce daimyo, known across Japan. Rather than rebel, whine, or complain about life’s injustice, Chiyome accepted her fate and did her duty.
When Chiyome’s husband died in battle, she saw an opportunity to practice what she has been trained to do – and proposed a highly unorthodox idea to Takeda Shingen, her dead husband’s uncle, who had enough foresight to listen. Chiyome went on to gather a group of women to be trained by her as professional spies.
This is different from other picturebooks, in that it is more text-heavy in comparison. However, Celia Krampien’s illustrations were lovely and the narrative had an arresting beat and pace to it, urging the reader to flip through the pages to know more. The delineation between what is fact and fiction also makes for good reading, alongside a list of references for further research to those who are keen on knowing more. Definitely a worthy addition to any school’s library.
#WomenReadWomen2019: Country – Canada (both author and illustrator are based in Canada)