Orca Book Publishers

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Fiction Ages 9-12
Pages: 224
Themes: martial arts, mental health, gender roles, racism, mindfulness, aikido
Publisher: Orca Book Publishers
Pub Date: 09/Apr/2019
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Ever since his mom left, Riley has been a mess. He feels nervous all the time. His heart pounds, his neck is tight, and he can't seem to turn off his brain. His dad signs him up for aikido, hoping it will help.

In the dojo, Riley meets boys who are much rougher than he is and a girl who is tougher than all the rest of them put together. For Wafaa, aikido is not her first choice. She was disqualified from competing in judo for wearing a hijab. From the first time she steps on the mat, it's clear she is far more skilled than anyone expected.

Through the teachings of their sensei, Riley and his classmates come to understand that aikido is not about winning or losing or about being perfect. Sensei shows them how to tap into their inner strength and find their place in the universe.

Kirkus Reviews
"Addressing mental health with empathy…an unexpected lesson that shows 'learning to fall' is an important step in developing resilience."
School Library Connection
"Ideal for martial arts fans looking for fiction that reflects their world, or else fictional guidance on relieving anxiety. Recommended."
CM: Canadian Review of Materials
"An interesting and engaging fast-paced read with strong, positive messages about self-control, self-improvement, and self-discipline."


CCBC Best Books for Kids & Teens  | 2019 | Commended
OLA Best Bets—Honorable Mention  | 2019 | Commended
TD Summer Reading Club Top Ten  | 2020 | Commended
Bank Street College of Education Best Books  | 2019 | Commended
Hamilton Literary Awards  | 2020 | Short-listed

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