Bookworm: Ninja kids; a killer granny and small business moves
- By Sue Fliess, illustrated by Jen Taylor
- c. 2019, Running Press Kids
- $17.99, $23.49 Canada; 32 pages
Your kicks have superhero powers. Just one, and criminals go flying. A chop of your fingers, and they run. A flip-leap-cartwheel, and you’re gone before they even know you’ve left. Yes, in your mind and in your back yard, you are a fearsome warrior but in “Ninja Camp” by Sue Fliess, illustrated by Jen Taylor, you can learn to be better.
Welcome to Ninja Camp. Here is where you’ll get the training you need to become the best ninja you can be. Pick a tent. No whining allowed. This is Ninja Camp – and it’s real camping – so go ahead, get comfortable, and “join your ninja team.”
Chances are, you’re eager to learn fast but you need to be patient. Becoming a ninja takes time and lots of practice. You’ll have to work very hard but “Day by day, you will improve.” You’ll learn to be brave. You’ll learn to be smart.
You’ll learn the first lesson: “guard the Shadow Blade,” the camp sword, at all costs!
Aside from that, a ninja gets really good at hitting targets. He knows how to crawl on his belly to sneak beneath things, how to carry heavy items easily, how to hide by blending in with his surroundings, when to “creep in silence,” how not to be noticed, and how to “move with speed.” As a ninja, you’ll also have to memorize “The Ninja Creed,” which tells you how to act, and reminds you that being a ninja isn’t all about hitting, kicking, or fighting.
Becoming a good ninja is hard, but it’s fun, too. You’ll practice with ninja teammates and go canoeing on the lake nearby – but beware! There’s a rival camp across the water and they’re going to try to steal the Shadow Blade. If they do, you’ll know how to get it back because you’re a ninja who crawls and sneaks and carries, hides, blends in, creeps and runs. You know how to save the day and make your Ninja Master proud. That’s what being a ninja is all about.
There are two distinct ways of seeing “Ninja Camp” that parents will want to know about: one for, one against.
In the first camp (no pun intended), this book will absolutely speak to the kid who was born with a Bruce Lee poster above his crib. It’s for the child who goes through life with kiai on his lips, and stealth in his step; and for the kid who needs the kind of confidence-boost that martial arts offers.
But beware: parents who are teaching non-violence in the home, or who have a child who might over-embrace ninja-warrior-ing will want to leave this book on the dojo mat. Subtly and otherwise, it promotes fighting, and it doesn’t express quite enough of the restraint and honor that real martial arts practitioners deploy.
The bottom line: know your little ninja before reading this book. “Ninja Camp” might not be for kids who are too eager to battle, while other kids may get a kick out of it.
“An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good”
- By Helene Tursten, translated by Marlaine Delargy
- c. 2018, Soho Press
- $12.99, $15.99 Canada; 184 pages
Growing older is a very good thing. First of all, there’s a secret to it: aging isn’t as important as are the perks of aging. Free desserts. Discounts everywhere. Better parking spots. Interesting memories. And, as in the new book “An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good” by Helene Tursten, the chance to get away with murder.
No matter what they did, Maud was staying put. Her apartment had been home for 88 years, thanks to lawyers who’d drawn up a contract when Maud’s father died seven decades ago, leaving her mother near penniless. Then, kindly new buyers for the apartment’s building had agreed to allow the widow and her daughters to stay, rent-free, for as long as they wished – of course, never dreaming any agreement could last so long. It wasn’t a very big place but a renegotiated small fee and the cost of utilities was all Maud paid to live there. So no, she wasn’t going anywhere.
She was especially not moving downstairs, though that’s what famous-for-being-famous Jasmin Schimmerhof wanted Maud to do. Jasmin had a tiny apartment below Maud’s home, but she wanted Maud’s spacious flat so there’d be room for more “art.” Subtlety, Jasmin believed, would get her what she wanted but Maud saw through Jasmin’s ruse – and she killed her.
Ah, but Maud wasn’t always so ill-tempered and churlish. Once, when she was a girl, she fell in love with a man whose family ended the engagement when they realized that Maud’s family was poor. She never forgot her beloved Gustaf, and because she’d kept track of him over the years, she knew that his much-younger new fiance was not to be trusted. Proving the scam would be hard and it might embarrass Gustaf, and so instead Maud found the woman – and she killed her.
Murder, you see, is easy when you’re a fit, healthy almost-90-year-old. It takes care of many of the world’s problems and, as Maud knew, nobody would ever suspect an elderly lady of killing anyone … would they?
Grandma always told you to respect your elders. You might grow old someday, she said, leaving the rest to your imagination.
Betcha she never had someone like Maud in mind …
And that’s what makes “An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good” so delightfully grim and howlingly funny: despite stereotypes that author Helene Tursten carefully cultivates on the side, Maud’s no apple-cheeked little granny. Expletives are quick to her lips, she’s independent as a cat, her schemes are smoothly diabolical, and she’s not above a little larceny if the chance presents itself. A con with a walker, an anti-Jessica-Fletcher, she’s also an Oscar-worthy actress when it comes to avoiding detection. Crimes aside, Maud is basically what we all want to be like when we’re “elderly.”
This is the perfect antidote to nice little mysteries that wrap up sweetly because there’s very little sweetness here. What you’ll find, instead, is gleefully-dark delight in short-story form. For whodunit lovers, “An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good” is very, very good.
“Company of One: Why Staying Small is the Next Big Thing for Business”
- By Paul Jarvis
- c. 2019, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
- $26, higher in Canada; 250 pages
A new building might be nice. Oh, not now but in the future, maybe. Right now, your business is a one-person operation (meaning: you’re solo), but you can dream, can’t you? You have plenty of great ideas but just be careful what you ask for, says author Paul Jarvis in his new book “Company of One.” Staying small might be better.
Tucked in the back of your head is that proverbial pop-the-cork moment and one day, your business will reach that. It’ll take work but, says Jarvis, it might not take as much effort as you think, if you keep your company small.
While that might sound completely anti-business, Jarvis points out that “not all growth is beneficial … ” Growth, in some cases, can be detrimental, leading to a business flash-and-crash that comes, at its core, from lack of control.
Overall, says Jarvis, companies of one have “four typical traits … resilience, autonomy, speed, and simplicity.” Self-knowledge of these traits, and the dexterity to use them properly, are two of the keys to owning a company of one.
Entrepreneurs who stay solo accept reality and know how to adapt when roadblocks are hit. They build work into their lives and set their hours to utilize their own productivity habits. Companies of one enjoy increased flexibility, so they’re able to take smaller or short-turnaround projects from larger companies that work more ponderously. And they tend to shy away from complexities within their operations because “simple solutions typically win.”
None of this means that you should avoid growth; instead, it means you should think about it carefully and plan to cap it. Growth should never get out of hand – more growth means more headaches – and it should never happen too quickly. Growing right is a process that requires a leader who’s “a sort of business MacGyver” and, sometimes, helpers. It never allows passion into the equation before hard work is done. To be a company of one, own your mistakes. Keep your promises. Never stop “questioning the need for growth.”
Last year’s sales were down at your business, and maybe that’s a good thing. So says author Paul Jarvis and in “Company of One,” he explains. And explains.
And explains .
Indeed, while this book is intriguing and presents an excitingly different way of looking at generating revenue and controlling growth, the same basic idea – to wit, growth is not necessarily good, unless you do it right and never fast – is presented in many ways. It’s true that readers are given tips on “staying small” but that information floats amongst similar-sounding “rules,” and anecdotes that are admittedly entertaining, yet are also same. In the end, we’re given more specific and better-rounded advice but it, too, is mixed with what feels like more repetition.
And yet, by overlooking these head-scratchers, this book may ultimately be valuable to businesspeople determined to avoid mistakes at all costs. The sameness in “Company of One” might serve to hammer home the right guidance for seasoned entrepreneurs or anyone with a new business they’re building.
The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.