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Three Samurai Cats


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K-Gr 3-Here's an adaptation of an adaptation of a story Zen masters used to illustrate how unconventional approaches to problems can be disarmingly effective. When a daimyo's castle is besieged by an enormous, ferocious rat, the lord beseeches the abbot of a nearby monastery to send a samurai cat to drive the beast away. The first and second samurai to confront him are overwhelmed by the rodent's martial-arts skills, but the third, a tattered, disreputable-looking old feline, allows the rat's greed to work against him and emerges triumphant. Kimmel's telling is reasonably successful and the message to "Draw strength from stillness. Learn to act without acting. And never underestimate a samurai cat-" is conveyed without any element of preachiness. Gerstein's lively cartoon illustrations are at their best in depicting the loathsome rat. The daimyo and the abbot are depicted as dogs, but there's no question as to who has the upper paw.-Miriam Lang Budin, Chappaqua Public Library, NY Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Plenty of action enlivens this team's (The Jar of Fools: Eight Hanukkah Stories from Chelm) version of a Zen parable about a castle held hostage by a gluttonous rat. The castle daimyo (powerful lord), a bulldog in a medieval Japanese costume, requests helpers from a shrine famous for its corps of fighting samurai cats. The rat defeats the first two candidates handily. Watch! proclaims the second, in the manner of martial arts heroes, I will demonstrate the technique of karigane, the wild goose, followed by shimo-tatewari, the bottom vertical split; the swish of his sword is almost audible, but his artistry is wasted when the rat boots him across the room. Gerstein uses Japanese anime style panels, but not their flat figures; his animals have heft, bulk and plenty of untidy fur. He has great fun with the paunchy rat, who alternately terrorizes the good guys and eats himself silly. At last the shrine sends Neko Roshi, the Zen master cat, a mangy but patient animal who waits for the rat's inevitable misstep and exploits it; the rat, threatened at last, leaves quietly. Neko Roshi allowed his opponent to defeat himself, explains the head of the fighting cats, when the daimyo comes to express amazement: Learn to act without acting. Children may not fully understand the cat's paradoxical tactics, or the mystical Zen message, but the sense is clear enough. Humor, wisdom and excitement make this offbeat tale a winner. Ages 5-8. (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

"Humorous, perfectly paced language ... [the] colorful, detailed drawings are irresistible."

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