Marcus Emerson (text), David Lee (illus.), A Game of Chase (Diary of a 6th Grade Ninja #4), Allen & Unwin, Jan 2017, 208 pp., $9.99 (pbk), ISBN: 9781760295585
Diary of a 6th Grade Ninja is a rollicking tale of Chase Cooper and his adventures as a secret leader of a ninja clan at Buchanan School. This is the fourth instalment in the series and follows Chase as he is entangled in an evil game run by the mysterious Jovial Noise, who is stealing precious science-fair projects and destroying them. Not only that, the dastardly villain is stringing Chase along with puzzling clues and then framing him for the chaos! Chase, along with his cousin Zoe, and her friend Gavin, must solve the mystery and save the entire science fair.
Emerson writes a boisterous story that never fails to lose pace and excitement. His main character, Chase, has a lively and excited voice that will connect with many younger readers. The mystery is well set up – there are enough clues to allow the reader to predict, but also enough diversions to muddy the waters in an enjoyable way.
If you haven’t read the previous titles in this series, there are some plot points that can be confusing at times. Emerson does a competent job of explaining key characters and recapping previous plots in the first chapter, but still I was left a tad perplexed at points. Why are there ninja clans at the school? What is their purpose? Is there a bigger picture to understand about the ninja clans, or are they there because ninjas are cool? Perhaps this is clearer in the other titles in the series, but in this one, the central story has little to do with the fact that Chase is a ninja, so it felt strange when ninjas were mentioned.
Teachers and librarians could easily recommend this book to older primary readers, especially those looking for adventure and intrigue. Skilful adults could also help readers to think critically about some of the gender politics on show here, such as the amount of times the female characters are involved in sighing over boys, or how the main character assumes the villain is male. Students could rewrite scenes from the female characters points of view, or imagine what their school would be like with secret groups within.
Reviewed by Madeleine Crofts
- Read our reviews of Books #1 & #2
- Read our review of Book #3
- Read our reviews of Books #5 & #6
- Read our review of Book #7