Shy Ninja

BiG. Jun. 2021. 128p. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9781643378633.
Gr 5-8–Rena, who is socially anxious, would rather spend her days in her room playing video games (she connects virtually with her friend Sidney, who can’t leave his house because of an unnamed medical condition), but she feels pressured to socialize with others. Her therapist gives her the assignment of joining at least one club and hands her a flyer for the Watsonville Ninja School. After she fills out the school’s online test on a whim, the master of the school shows up and tells Rena she’s accepted. Ninja training is her opportunity to get everyone’s attention away from her, especially if she can learn some of those vanishing ninja skills she’s seen in movies. And she soon learns that she is the Ghost, who, according to ancient prophecy, will save all ninjas from ruin. Refreshingly, Rena isn’t defined by her social anxiety, and outside of school, she’s an energetic and self-assured character capable of making friendships on her own terms. The richly colored artwork adds to the story’s lively tone with spirited action scenes and vivid facial expressions reminiscent of the Nickelodeon Avatar series. Rena has tan skin and teal hair, and her mom has light skin and orange hair. Although most other secondary characters are also portrayed with light skin, Sidney is Black.
VERDICT With a sensitive depiction of mental illness and plenty of dynamic action, this is a fun addition to graphic novel collections.

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