Like many American kids, my Monkeys like to run around the house “doing karate” – which to them means shouting “hiya!” a lot and trying to chop each other up with their hands.
As we started our month-long study of Japan (part of the new Global Learning for Kids series from Multicultural Kid Blogs), I wanted them to learn the real story behind these moves, as well as about other Japanese warriors. So I set out to find children’s books about martial arts from Japan (especially karate), as well as ninjas and samurai. They hadn’t heard of samurai, but the image of the stealthy ninja was already familiar to them, at least in its cartoon form.
Children’s Books about Ninjas, Samurai, and Karate Masters
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Karate and Other Martial Arts
Chip and the Karate Kick by Anne Rockwell is a book parents and kids can enjoy. Kids will identify with Chip, who is eager to do karate chops, just like his favorite action hero, and frustrated about how slowly his classes are progressing. Parents will appreciate the message of the story, as Chip learns the true spirit of karate, which is using the art to defend those in need. I love that the story even incorporates a bit of the history of karate as well as some common Japanese words, such as sensei and dojo, in a way that is natural to the storyline and easy for kids to learn.
We are big fans of Geronimo Stilton. They are great easy reader adventure books and are a wonderful way to teach kids about other countries. For example, we read one of Geronimo’s adventures when we learned about Mongolia, so I can’t wait to read The Karate Mouse with Monkey! In this book, Geronimo must overcome his fear to compete in a World Karate Competition. Can he become champion material in time?
One series I’m really excited to check out is Julie Black Belt, part of the Kung Fu Chronicles. I love that this features a strong female heroine in what is traditionally a male sport. Thanks to Carrie of Crafty Moms Share for telling me about this series. Be sure to read her review!
Are you like me and need a primer on martial arts yourself? Be sure to read this martial arts overview from Pragmatic Mom – it is a great introduction to a wide range of martial arts, including children’s book tie-ins.
An absolutely adorable book is Nighttime Ninja by Barbara DaCosta. In this beautifully illustrated picture book, a ninja creeps through a sleeping house, only to be surprised just as he is about to complete his mission! A fun read for kids and parents.
If you love creative re-tellings of traditional tales, then you have to check out Ninja Red Riding Hood as well as its companion The Three Ninja Pigs. Spoiler alert: It’s not good news for the wolf! I found out about these books from Pragmatic Mom – be sure to check out her full list of Ninja Books for Kids!
For a more serious introduction to ninjas, I like Ninja (The World of Martial Arts) by Jim Ollhoff. It is a good overview for kids of the history and techniques of ninjas. It also answers the question, Are there still ninjas today??
There is also Ninjas: Masters of Stealth and Secrecy by Joanne Mattern. I really like this one because dives into the history and culture of the historical ninjas, focusing on the why as well as the how of what they did. This book really explains the relationship between ninjas and samurai, including why they were often at odds with each other – but sometimes worked together.
Perhaps because they are less popular among kids than ninjas, I didn’t find as many children’s books about samurai. Luckily for me, though, I found a wonderful book list of Japanese folktales from What Do We Do All Day?, which included a samurai story similar to Thumbelina. The Smallest Samurai is so small he has to make his sword out of a needle, so how will he prove himself as a warrior? The artwork, based on 19th century Japanese prints, looks absolutely stunning!
I am so in love with All About Japan: Stories, Songs, Crafts and More by Willamarie Moore. (You could win a copy by entering our giveaway below!) If you can only pick up one book about Japan for your kids, this should be it! It really does cover all the basics, in a fun, engaging format. From food to holidays to geography, you can learn a bit of everything and feel like you’ve really traveled to Japan! Important for this list, the book includes a very brief introduction to samurai, including a craft to make your own samurai helmet with origami!
How to Be a Samurai Warrior is an excellent book from National Geographic. I love its premise, guiding you through everything you need to be a samurai warrior, from What Will You Learn? to Do You Want the Top Job? As you would expect from National Geographic, the book is both comprehensive and accessible. Indispensable if you have a real samurai lover in your house.
Another great, in-depth work is Japan in the Days of the Samurai (Cultures of the Past) by Virginia Schomp. This is a wonderful book for older kids to learn more about the world in which the samurai lived. It would be great for a history class or home school study of ancient cultures.
For a great overview of samurai and how they relate to overall Japanese history, I recommend this article from Pragmatic Mom on Shogun, Family Crests, and Block Prints. It has great book recommendations, as well as the perspective of personal family history.
Multicultural Kid Blogs is excited to announce our second annual Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month Blog Series and Giveaway! See our main page for a full schedule, and be sure to enter the amazing giveaway below!
The giveaway starts Monday, May 4 and goes through Monday, June 1. Enter for a chance to win one of these amazing prizes!
Please note that there are shipping restrictions on some prizes. In the event that the winner lives outside of the shipping area, that portion of the prize will be added to the following prize package.
Grand Prize Package
Personal Tea Ceremony Gift Set from Gift a Feast
Includes everything you need to prepare and enjoy matcha, the tea served in traditional Japanese tea ceremonies. Enjoy being part of the journey of matcha tea from the temples of 12th century Buddhist monks to today! US shipping only
Calin Yang Doll from Pattycake Doll Company
For the parents of Multicultural, Biracial, Black or Asian children, finding that perfect doll used to be a challenge. But today all that has changed. Pattycake Doll Company is the recognized source for Black, Asian, Hispanic, Biracial, and Multicultural Dolls as well as Dolls for Boys, and donate 10% of profits to children’s charities. This month’s contest winner will receive the most popular Asian Baby Doll in the world – Calin Yang by Corolle.
Asian Kites from Tuttle Publishing
Kids will learn how to make colorful kites while exploring Asian culture and history with this easy-to-follow crafts for kids book.
All About Japan from Tuttle Publishing
2012 Creative Child Magazine Preferred Choice Award Winner! A cultural adventure for kids, All About Japan offers a journey to a new place—and ways to bring it to life! Dive into stories, play some games from Japan, learn some Japanese songs.
Hello, Bali from Kids Yoga Stories
Say good day to the magical island of Bali through these energizing yoga poses for kids. Join one of the Yoga Kids, Anamika, as you surf like a surfer, dance like a Balinese dancer, and sit like a monkey. Included is a list of Kids Yoga Poses, Basic Indonesian phrases, and a Parent-Teacher Guide with tips on creating a successful yoga experience.
1st Prize Package
The 1st Prize Package includes:
Udon Noodle Bowls from Uncommon Goods
Whether you’re hosting a dinner party or lounging on the couch, this creation is ideal for udon, soup or stir-fry. A blend of a mug and a bowl, the handmade piece is contoured to fit snugly in the palm of your hand. Black lacquer bamboo chopsticks included. US Shipping only
Japanese House Architectural Blocks Set from HABA
One of the oldest cultures in the world also has one of the most beautiful forms of architecture. Complicated multi-tier roofs and ornate pagodas allow the builder to create temples, palaces or calming formal gardens. With this set your child can take their imagination on a trip to Japan in the safety of their own living room. US/Canada Shipping Only
All About Indonesia from Tuttle Publishing
A book for children that takes them on an adventure through one of the world’s largest and most culturally diverse countries. Along the way, kids are introduced to Indonesian culture and history, the food, the language, and the natural beauty of this fascinating country!
Fun with Asian Food from Tuttle Publishing
This Asian cookbook for kids contains fun and easy recipes that children will love to cook and dishes that even the pickiest eaters will savor!
Indian Children’s Favorite Stories from Tuttle Publishing
This colorfully illustrated multicultural children’s book presents Indian fairy tales and other folk stories—providing insight into a rich literary culture.
2nd Prize Package
The 2nd Prize Package includes:
Sushi Slicing Play Set from Melissa & Doug
This elegant 24-piece wooden sushi play-food set is packed in a beautiful storage box and includes sliceable sushi rolls, shrimp, tuna, easy-use chopsticks, a cleaver and more. Sushi rolls make realistic chopping sounds when sliced! US/Canada Shipping Only
Countryside from Kevin So
An album filled with “heartfelt great songs, great singing and great playing…simply something you’ll love if you’re a fan of originality, melody, surprising lyrics and beautiful instrumentation, beautifully played.” Learn more about this artist and listen to samples of his work here.
Book from the Maui New Zealand series from Global Kids Oz
Enjoy a book of from this collection of New Zealand Maori Myths and Legends that every New Zealand child is brought up with in school!
Angkat: The Cambodian Cinderella from Lee & Low
In the first English retelling of this ancient Cambodian tale, our heroine goes further, survives more, and has to conquer her own mortality to regain her rightful place. Angkat—child of ashes—endures great wrongs as she seeks to rise above the distresses caused by her own family. US Shipping only
Summoning the Phoenix: Poems and Prose About Chinese Musical Instruments from Lee & Low
Including both flights of fancy and practical considerations, lively poems capture each child’s musical experience with a different Chinese instrument, while sidebars provide more information about each one. US Shipping only
Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story from Lee & Low
The incredible true story of the first Asian American to win an Olympic gold medal. Winner of Lee & Low’s New Voices Award. US Shipping only
Juna’s Jar from Lee & Low
When her best friend moves away, Juna sets out to search for him with the help of a special jar. What Juna finds is that adventure—and new friends—can be found in the most unexpected places. US Shipping only
A Place Where Sunflowers Grow from Lee & Low
A powerful story of hope, recounting the little known tale of the art schools that offered moments of solace and self-expression to Japanese Americans in the US internment camps of World War II. US Shipping only
Enter for a Chance to Win!