Can a one-legged boy train to become a great samurai warrior?.

Niya Moto is the only one-legged Samurai kid in Japan, famous for falling flat on his face in the dirt. None of the samurai schools will teach crippled Niya, until an offer arrives from the legendary samurai warrior Ki-Yaga, sensei of the Cockroach Ryu. Together with the other Cockroaches, Niya must defeat the fierce Dragon Ryu at the Samurai Trainee Games.

  • An historically accurate depiction of feudal Japan; the focus on martial arts will appeal to active kids!
  • An exciting new series for boys and girls that celebrates differences

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Extract – Chapter One: Little Cockroaches


I scissor kick high as I can and land on my left foot. I haven’t got another one. My name is Niya Moto and I’m the only one-legged samurai kid in Japan. Usually I miss my foot and land on my backside. Or flat on my face in the dirt.

I’m not good at exercises, but I’m great at standing on one leg. Raising my arms over my head, I pretend I am the White Crane. ‘Look at me,’ the crane screeches across the training ground. ‘Look at him,’ the valley echoes.

But Sensei Ki-Yaga is not looking. My master sits in the sun with his back against the old stooped cherry tree. He is as ancient as the mountains around our ryu school and as dilapidated as the equipment we use. Most people think he died years ago.

Eyes shut, he’s not watching me practise. That lazy old man slept through the only upright landing I’ve ever made! I lower my right arm and the White Crane makes a rude gesture with its wing.

Sensei’s wrinkled mouth creaks into a smile but his eyes stay hidden behind closed lids.

‘A boy who cannot perfectly execute even half a scissor kick should not waste time finding fault with his teacher. More practice, Little Cockroach.” His voice rumbles like thunder.

‘Yes Master.’ I bow low to show my respect. Even though he is strict, I like Sensei and I never forget he was the only teacher not bothered by my missing leg.

‘I am not a counter of feet,’ he told me. ‘I am a collector of more important parts. And when I buy you socks, they will last twice as long.’

Copyright © 2007 Sandy Fussell


This historical fiction novel tells the story of Niya Moto, a samurai boy with one leg in feudal Japan, and his four fellow students who also have disabilities; one is missing an arm, one is blind, and another has extra fingers and toes. Niya’s own words “We’re the unwanted. Unwanted everywhere else” (p. 14) indicate how prejudice has dominated their lives….  Fussell utilizes her detailed research about the ancient history of Japan, geographic areas, and cultural values and beliefs to beautifully craft the story. WOW Review, Issue 4, Vol 5 University of Arizona

Told in the timeless present making it move along at a good pace. As an enjoyable, well constructed story for a wide age-range, it’s a winner Magpies

Sandy Fussell works cleverly and sensitively throughout the story of the White Crane to capture the true essence of friendship; our differences combined give us more strength than any individual effort can produce. The characters in this story demonstrate their growing resilience as they learn to accept their ‘shortcomings’ and to value the qualities that they and others bring to a relationship… In the classroom, this fast paced story will engage listeners with its descriptions of Japanese tradition in the context of the Samurai school, the Cockroach Ryu. For those preparing to take on the challenge of secondary school, Samurai Kids: The White Crane provides opportunity to discuss and explore the uncertainty about the unknown that is often more frightening than its eventual reality. Practically Primary, Australian Literacy Educators Association.

The ‘Samurai Kids’ series has remained eternally popular in whichever library I have worked in. I’ve worked in a co-ed school, a boys school and now a girls school and I know that this series has remained a favourite. I had a teacher at my current school become quite obsessed with these a few years ago – proving once again that good literature totally transcends publisher imposed age ranges. Children’s Books Daily (Top 100 Childrens Literature blogs)

White Crane is the first title in the new Samurai Kids series. This perfectly wrought tale will delight child and adult readers alike. Set in the mountains of Japan, and with a blend of mysticism, adventure and exploration of friendship, this is a wonderful offering for primary aged readers. NSW Assoc. for Gifted and Talented Children

First in a martial arts series written in chapter-long vignettes, Fussell’s debut is infused with authentic emotion and an agile plot. Publishers Weekly

I liked this book so much because some part were exciting and intense and when you weren’t in the intense exciting parts you were in a nice slow paced novel that you would love. Toby, Year 8

Fussell’s writing is clear, evocative, funny and honestly quite beautiful… there is no way you can finish book one without tumbling headlong into book two, desperate for more. Kids Book Review (Top 100 Children’s Literature blogs)

A great read with plenty of action and stories from the Sensei DMag March 2008

I’ve never lived in feudal Japan, but I feel as though I’ve experienced it vicariously through Niya. From the Bushido code Ki-Yaga quotes, to the Samurai kids’ fascination with honey pudding, it all helps to bring the story to life, and make the reader want more. Book Chook

A good read for upper primary children looking for adventure and action with a touch of Japan Australian Bookseller and Publisher

…its easy readability makes it accessible for nearly everyone, young and old. I would recommend this book for anyone above the age of 10…. much older readers will also get something out of it, whether it be an appreciation of Bushido, the noble samurai code, the idea to look through the surface and see the person beneath or simply a very good read Yarra Review


Attitudes, activities and personalities all clash, leading to a fascinating final clash between the two leaders of the Cockroach Ryu and the Dragon Ryu. Not too violent, yet thought provoking and a very good story about friendship and team work.

Monsters and