The Legend of Ninja Cowboy Bear by David Bruins and Hilary Leung.
If you click on the title or image above, you will see that you are taken to their specific website instead of Worldcat or Amazon. This little book is the reason I wade through so many small press or self-published books. It is that hidden gem.
Ninja, Cowboy and Bear are all friends. They enjoyed being together all the time, but at the same time were very different from one another. Ninja was fast and graceful. Cowboy was precise and accurate. Bear was strong. Their various strengths came between them one day when Ninja and Bear began to argue. Cowboy set them a challenge to pile stones as high as they could. Bear handily beat Ninja. Bear declared himself best, but Cowboy challenged him. Ninja set them a challenge that Cowboy won. When that was done, Ninja challenged Cowboy and beat him at the challenge Bear set them. All three walked off in a funk over the results until they realized the truth of their differences and strengths.
The illustrations are the thing that make this book so very special. Done on a textured surface, they shout with bright colors and modern style. Each of the three characters has their own way of moving and standing, speaking to their strengths. On each argument page, the colors mute into sepia tones until the challenge is set. A subtle but effective device.
The happy ending comes a bit too quickly and easily, but that may just be that I wanted the book to last a little longer. The text is brief and friendly. There are wonderful touches throughout that will have adults smiling even if children don’t understand the reference. I personally enjoy the Free Game Inside! on the cover echoing the cereal boxes of my childhood. But my favorite piece is when Ninja is meditating and cherry blossoms float by in the breeze. Love it!
A winning book even if published by a large publisher, this book is charming, funny and offers that free game which is a more physical version of rock, paper, scissors. Appropriate for ages 4-6.