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Today for the Christmas countdown I bring a picture book that is unlike any Christmas picture book I have ever seen. It is new. It is bold. It is about ninjas. It has a snowball fight. And it is epic. Another thrilling new book for the year, here is Samurai Santa by Rubin Pingk, 2015.

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The story is about a boy named Yukio who lives in Ninja Village. Christmas Eve brought the most perfect snow day of the year and Yukio desperately wants to have a huge snowball fight. But none of the other ninjas will join in because they don’t want to be on Santa’s naughty list. Yukio is sad and lonely.

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He blames Santa and creates a plot to chase Santa away. He waits for Santa to sneak in and then sounds the alarm for an intruder. All the sleeping ninjas wake up and groggily jump in to protect the village. It is a unique Christmas day, and yes, incredibly epic.

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I love this spread. Reminds me of my favorite chimney spread in the Duvoisin Night Before Christmas, but takes it to a whole other ninja level!

I honestly cannot remember how I heard about this book, but somehow it ended up on my library list. I wasn’t sure what to expect from it, but I have to say I was completely entertained and delighted by it. Ninjas aren’t often on my radar; but this year seems to have had quite a few and I was slow to pick up on the theme. So I am closing out the year with a bang in this unique holiday story.

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A couple things that I love about this book: first off, the art. I am a big fan of Japanese animation and Pingk’s style draws on that genre. While the illustrations are digitally created, they don’t necessarily feel that way. There is a lot of movement and excellent strokes.

Along with the art, I love the color palette. While the red feels very appropriate for Christmas, and especially Santa; the icy grey-blues are a refreshing additional color evoking the cool of the wintery months. It is a startling palette, wanting to feel very cold and stark with the solid blacks and whites; but the red and the grey-blues have an interesting collaborative chemistry that keep interest. They flow beautifully with and against each other.

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Lastly, I love the typesetting. It is definitely the design nerd speaking loudly within me, but I love the purposeful, graphically positioned text. Often times, even in beautiful picture books, the text feels like a stranger on the page – narrating, but not really belonging in the image. Here though, the text fits. It moves around things. It grows and diminishes for effect. It is very purposeful and adds a whole other layer to the story. I’m not sure if Chloë Foglia was just named as the jacket designer or laid out the whole book; but either way, the design is just as epic as the story and its ending. Awesome stuff. And yes, perfect for “a very ninja Christmas.”

See you tomorrow as we close in on the final week of the Christmas picture book countdown.