Topic: Being Yourself

Book: Wink the Ninja Who Wanted to be Noticed by J.C. Phillipps

Grades – 1st through 3rd grade

Synopsis – I love this book. Every kid I’ve ever read it to also loves this book, because who doesn’t love ninjas? The story starts with Wink being accepted to the Summer Moon School for Young Ninjas. He is so happy about starting his new school and learning to be a ninja! Except, things don’t go according to plan for Wink. His teacher, Master Zutsu, gets very frustrated with him. Ninjas are supposed to quiet, and Wink had a hard time being quiet. They are supposed to be stealthy, and Wink likes bright colored clothing. Every time Wink disrupts school he is sent home to the loving and understanding Grandmother. She tries to make him feel better by suggesting they do something fun and go to the circus, but Wink feels so down he refuses. Finally, on a field trip, Wink does everything he’s supposed to, he is quiet and invisible, but then realizes that no one notices him, and what’s the use of being a ninja if no one notices you? He leaves school and then finds a boy practicing acrobatics and falling when he does tricks. Wink decides to help him and gives him pointers. He returns to the boy’s house day after day to show the boy and his family his ninja moves, they are impressed. Finally, at the end, Grandmother and Master Zutsu get an invitation to the circus. They are surprised to see one of the star acrobats is Wink!  He has finally found something he is good at and gets noticed for.

The illustrations in the book are very richly patterned. It’s a quick read, maybe 10 minutes if you read slow and really took time to show pictures. It reads out loud great and I’ve found is great at keeping kids’ attention.

Classroom Lesson: After reading the story, we talk about how it’s OK to not be good at something.  I usually share something I’m not good at (it’s usually basketball because I’m very tall and this throws the kids, they assume I am good at it because I’m tall, this helps me show them that not everyone is good at what they are “supposed” to be good at). We talk about how even if we try something and it turns out it’s not our thing, it’s ok to try something else. It’s ok to fail and learn from your failure. Then I have the students think about what their “thing” is that they like to be noticed for.

For Wink, it was acrobatics, for me it’s being a good counselor, what is it for you? Once they think about it, I have them draw a picture to illustrate it. If you are teaching older kids, you could have them do an illustration for something that is not their thing and then something that is their thing. I like having kids think critically about themselves, it leads to greater self-awareness and more confident kids.

Individual Counseling: I would use the same sort of activity with drawing something that the student is good at. I have used this book with kids who have self-esteem issues, or are perfectionists. It can be beneficial for these students to point out that Wink really wanted to be a ninja at first and when he wasn’t good at it, he was sad. It’s ok to be sad and upset when things don’t work out. But just like Wink, you can’t give up trying to find that thing that makes you happy.

Small Group: You can easily do the same kind of lesson in a small group that is focused on self-esteem or even anxiety. Wink fails a lot. That amount of failure or displeasing a teacher would wreck students with anxiety. It’s a good way to illustrate that failure is not the end of the line, it can lead to great things and self-discovery.