I adore martial arts. I am a martial artist, and it is just something that has been in my blood from a very young age. My niece and nephew have recently taken up martial arts as well, so I wanted to give this book a listen/read to see if it's something that my niece might enjoy, since it's aimed at her reading level.
There is a lot in here that I think my niece would be able to identify with. We love our Master just as much as the monks in this story love theirs. We would both be able to identify with the idea of doing anything for him, and we'd both identify with the idea of trying to live our lives in accordance with the principles that we learn through our art and through the lessons our Master teaches us. On a mechanical level, we'd both be able to envision the action in this book, because we are martial artists and know some of the moves described.
That said, I found this story to be a tiny bit too, well, Ninjago for my taste. The dialogue is at that level, I think, and there's just a little too much... I don't know the word... Too much "GAAHHH!!! I WILL DEFEAT YOU, YOU EVIL SLIME," going on. Melodrama? Maybe that's the right word.
Sorry to all the males out there who are offended by a female being offended, but I also didn't really like the way in which girls were used in this story. Paraphrasing here, "We shouldn't be hiding in this water barrel like a bunch of scared girls," or "The boys in the village didn't want the girls in the village learning Kung Fu, too," or, "Commander Wu, get down out of that palanquin--do you think you're a princess?!" I realize that this story is supposed to take place in ancient China, and that girls and women were not exactly well regarded at that time. But still--this is a book aimed at kids growing up today. I'm not asking that girls be written into the story (and they weren't in this one), I'm asking that using the female gender in a derogatory way just not be done when it really doesn't serve a purpose to the story. I can deal with it when there is a point to it. And frankly, as a female martial artist, let me just say, that I have knocked a 240 pound man out cold, and more than one large male has felt my blows. I routinely excel in my art, and I've won so many competitions against male competitors that I've lost count. I don't mean to brag, I really don't. My point is, all things considered, in the world of martial arts there is nothing derogatory about the feminine. Martial arts is an equalizer, and the monks in this story would know and respect that, because martial artists are taught to *never* underestimate an opponent. So, this idea of weak, scared, princess-y females is something my niece and I would not identify with, and would not appreciate about this book.
Would I recommend this book to her? Meh. I would certainly have done so if the portrayal of the feminine had been positive, or even completely left out. Will I recommend it to my nephew? Yeah. After he's lost a sparring match to a girl or two. :-)