Dojo Daycare is a simple tale that imagines all the hilarious chaos that could ensue at a daycare for ninjas. The tiny black-garbed tots bust and break their way through each activity, eventually reducing the helpless Master to tears. One little ninja finally speaks up and turns things around, and by the time the parents come to collect the kids, the daycare has been put back together. Despite the silliness and rollicking feel, Dojo Daycare ultimately champions honour, kindness, and respect over recklessness and violence.
Author-illustrator Chris Tougas’s previous work includes 2007’s Mechanimals, in which he displayed his finesse with pencil and watercolour. In Dojo Daycare, Tougas’s background in film animation is apparent. It’s easy to imagine the book’s digitally rendered scenes as freeze frames from an action-packed Saturday morning cartoon. And like any great cartoon, humour abounds from beginning to end. Subtle comic touches enhance the already funny concept of “kid ninjas” and elevate the book above similarly themed titles: ninja parents descend from the ceiling to drop off and pick up their progeny; a teddy bear becomes increasingly mangled as the story progresses and calamity unfolds; food ends up on the Master’s head.
Punchy graphics and rhyming text keep things hopping at an energetic pace. Big, bold exclamations (KABOOM! KAPOW!) are given classic comics-style treatment and pop off the page. Don’t be surprised if kids big and small mimic the sounds and actions found in the book after just one reading. With any luck, they will also imitate the underlying message at the heart of this entertaining story.