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Samurai by Ian Beck and Daniel Atanasov

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Samurai by Ian Beck and Daniel Atanasov

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Category: Dyslexia Friendly
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Margaret Young
Reviewed by Margaret Young
Summary: A timeless story of courage and redemption.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 60 Date: July 2013
Publisher: Barrington Stoke
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1781122204

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The hero of our story is nameless. He is only the Samurai, and not even quite that. He is dishonoured, a masterless Samurai, or Ronin. We do not know his master's fate but we can only assume it is death, and that Ronin has fled the field taking his injured dog to safety. The land is desolate and barren and both the text and the superbly drawn illustrations build a feeling of darkness and despair. The path he travels on is lined with skeletons of defeated warriors lashed to wagon wheels. It gives the reader the impression of the road to hell. The young Samurai takes refuge in a ruined palace, yet another sign of devastation upon the land, seeming to exist for the next few days only to care for Cho, his dog, while awaiting the punishment of the gods for his failure. He rises from despair to help others, first to defeat a demon haunting the palace, and then undertaking a journey to find and defeat another deadly demon. Soon the young warrior comes to a village suffering under the most horrific of curses. His courage will be put to the test as he must risk even his beloved Cho to save an innocent girl and lift the curse.

We do have a number of folktales and myths from China and Japan. To the best of my knowledge, this is a completely new and modern story, but it retains many of the qualities of the older tales. There is the sense of honour, the respect for elders and of courage. The hero must overcome the greatest odds, but not for personal gain. In all of these stories the one who succeeds is humble, pure of spirit and considerate of others. The stories of Samurai warriors have much in common with those of Arthur and the Round Table, with the heroic quests, noble warriors and self sacrifice, but women are cast in a considerably better light.

It came as no surprise to learn that the illustrator of this book is best known for illustrating Manga. The influence is obvious, as is the talent. These illustrations are easily good enough for the best of graphic novels or Manga. They are richly detailed, drawing the reader into the story, perfectly drawing the author's words to life, creating both beauty and terror with a brush stroke. My only disappointment was that there was no final illustration. The artist displayed such a rare talent for drawing a bleak and devastated landscape, as well as despairing humans and horrific demons, I would have loved to see his illustration of joy and peace as well. His illustration of the dog is also exceptional, capturing all of the canine's best qualities, love, courage and devotion. I would guess the dog to be a Hokkaido, but I could be mistaken.

Samurai is part of Barrington Stoke's line of books written specifically for children with dyslexia. These books follow all of the guidelines of the British Dyslexia Association for dyslexia-friendly text. Working with a team of experts in the field, Barrington Stoke have developed their own font which is especially designed to make reading as easy as possible for children with dyslexia. They also print all of their books on a thick, off white, non-glare paper to minimise distractions which can make reading more difficult. The print is large and double spaced, with short chapters and short stories created to build confidence. The stories are commissioned by Barrington Stoke, usually from very well known authors, and are written to appeal to older children, with a high interest level but a low reading level.

Barrington Stoke also has some of the best stories we have come across for older children. These are books you just cannot put down. My own child does not suffer from dyslexia, but he has commented on how much easier it is to read the books with this style of print. The double spacing and frequent breaks mean he does not lose his place in the book, and makes reading a far more enjoyable experience. These books can literally be life changing for a child who is struggling to learn to read, but they make reading easier for all young children, whether they have disabilities or not.

This book is listed as a reading age of 8 and an interest age of 9+. My eight year old son enjoyed this story, especially the fighting and the dog. I have to admit, I loved the dog as well. This is definitely a book for dog lovers as well as fans of action stories. I decided not to share this with my youngest though, because in addition to death and mutilated bodies, there is a fairly graphic description and illustration of the death of some wild dogs. Because of this I would not go far below the publishers recommended age. I would not place any upper age limit on this though. Any adult who still enjoys Manga or graphic novels is apt to be intrigued. The story is beautiful and the illustrations are truly exceptional.

If this book appeals then you might also like to try:

Thor and the Master of Magic by Kevin Crossley-Holland and Siku

Gamer by Chris Bradford

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Buy Samurai by Ian Beck and Daniel Atanasov at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Samurai by Ian Beck and Daniel Atanasov at


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