Tomo: I was an Eighth Grade Ninja

Story by: Andrew Simmons and Rob Corley; Art by: Ariel Padilla; Created by: Tom Bancroft and Rob Corley

The graphic novel has taken teenagers and young adults by storm the last few years. Many authors are now writing in this style and teenagers are very eager to read the books. The Manga (Japanese) style is becoming so popular that young adults are learning Japanese so they can read it without translation. Christian authors saw a new market for promoting positive books in a different setting rather than traditional style.

In Tomo: I Was an Eighth Grade Ninja which is the first novel in a series, Hana, a Japanese immigrant, comes to San Francisco to live with her grandfather and mysterious friend Tomo. Tomo, a cat, knows karate and helps defend a powerful sword later in the book. In an alternative world, Argon Falls, evil animal-like warriors plot to take possession of the powerful sword. These animal-like warriors discover a portal for entry into Hana’s world.

Hana is a karate expert. Her grandfather learns of her exceptional skills soon after her arrival as he invites her to practice in his dojo. She learns that her grandfather is a Christian when he prays and takes her to church on Sunday. Hana is introduced to Brittany who is her age and the pastor’s daughter. Brittany agrees to help Hana around school on Monday and it seems that they are going to be instant friends.

However, Brittany does not introduce her to her friends and Hana sits alone during lunch. After school Brittany’s friends create a plan to hurt and embarrass Hana. Brittany unwillingly agrees to go along with the plan, but she continues to walk Hana home. The friendship between the two girls begins to blossom even as the dark warriors are descending over the city. Brittany later in the book learns a valuable lesson about bullying, standing up to temptation, and standing up for what is right. Brittany and Hana decide to forgive one another. Hana even agrees to help Brittany learn karate. Suddenly as Brittany leaves there is a knock at the door and Hana opens it. She soon discovers a secret about her life and her grandfather that will change her life.

Hana’s expertise in karate could classify her as a ninja. Ninjas are often at the center of the Japanese graphic novels. In Tomo: I was an Eighth Grade Ninja the lines are clearly drawn about good and evil. The book is a reminder to put on the full armor of God for everyone even teenagers. The warriors are after the sword of the spirit so they can be powerful. It is important to remember to hold on tight to the word of God. This book taught me a little Japanese and I think that makes it even more interesting. This is a good read for a middle school student who is looking for a comic book style novel with clear morals and Biblical truth.

Kristina O’Brien is a mother of twin girls, an avid reader, and credentialed teacher. She has taught both middle school and high school history. She is currently a stay-at-home mom and enjoys raising her two girls.