BE WATER, MY FRIEND: THE EARLY YEARS OF BRUCE LEE by Ken Mochizuki, illustrated by Dom Lee (Lee & Low)
In every passionate pursuit, the pursuit counts more than the object pursued.
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Young Bruce Lee doesn't like to sit still at school. But at the school of the martial arts master, he doesn't have to. When Bruce uses his new skills to fight others, his sage teacher ignores him, then advises him. "Big branches of a tree snap under the weight of snow, while weaker and suppler reeds bend and survive." What lessons are there in this master's riddles? How can Bruce learn to be calm while exchanging blows and kicks, how can he learn to be gentle in his world where so many blows were thrown? It is not until he tries to lay his fist on water that he realizes his own power to break through anything in the world. The enlightenment of this wild child is gradual and believable, and so hopeful, as children often make mistakes and need chances at a fresh start. Older children will be inspired by this book as well as younger children, so share it in high school classrooms along with the third grade! Sepia-colored renderings from acrylic/wax scratchboard are unusual, and evocative of the time period. This beautiful multicultural biography with universal appeal packs a real one-two punch. (7 and up) Also of interest: More martial arts translate into the literary arts! Give reluctant reading a karate chop with these black-belt books. LEGEND OF HONG KU DONG by Anne Sibley O'Brien (Charlesbridge) A graphic novel/picture book chronicles the reversals of fortune of the 17th century Korean hero who fought for the rights of peasants in an unfair feudal system. A great entrée for kids into what was the first novel written in the Korean language! Unique! (8 and up) THE MASTER SWORDSMAN AND THE MAGIC DOORWAY: TWO TALES FROM CHINA by Alice Provensen (Simon and Schuster) A young apprentice learns the hard way how to be the master, and a masterful artist uses his craft to protect his people. The virtues of a job done well are exalted in this hard-to-find but worthwhile gem. Two for one! (6 and up) BEAUTIFUL WARRIOR: THE LEGEND OF THE NUN'S KUNG FU by Emily Arnold McCully (Scholastic) Wu Mei helps Mingyi escape a forced marriage to a bullying bandit with the help of mastery in "qi," or vital energy. McCully's stunning illustrations are inspired by her study of traditional Chinese art. You go, girls! (7 and up) BLUE FINGERS: A NINJA'S TALE by Cheryl Aylward Whitesel (Clarion) 16th Century Japan is the backdrop of this smart story in which twins exchange fates. Great information on the real, non-movie ninja culture is woven throughout this adventure. (10 and up) THE TIGER part of the FIVE ANCESTORS series by Jeff Stone (Random House), a crazily exciting series in which children trained in martial arts and named for animals who possess their inherent skills kick butt in honor of their foster brothers and the monks who care for them. Adventure with a major manga feel! (11 and up)