You can’t do that..- with Sandy FussellMonkey Fist - samurai kids book cover

Welcome to Sandy Fussell, author of the Samurai Kids series. The fourth title in the series ‘Monkey Fist’ is newly released. She’s here today to talk about what you can and can’t do in writing…

Monkey Fist almost didn’t happen

“You can’t write a story about six children with disabilities,” was the feedback from friends when I floated the concept for Samurai Kids. “Why not?” I asked. Apparently it’s not politically correct.

Rather than be discouraged, I was even more determined. Kids with disabilities have the right to have a go at anything within their realms of possibility. There’s nothing furtive about it. We all have challenges to overcome in our lives. Some are obvious like Niya’s one leg or Taji’s blindness; others are less easy to see, like the childhood experience that makes Yoshi refuse to fight.

“But, you can’t group them all together. It, well… it attracts attention,” I was told. Exactly. We should celebrate everyone for who they are. We all have strengths and we all have weaknesses. And why shouldn’t a boy with one leg befriend a boy with one arm?

The story

Sandy Fussell and samurai kidsSo in my samurai world of the mid 17th century, Sensei Ki-Yaga’s hand-picked students are the children no-one else believes in. But Ki-Yaga is wiser than other teachers – he knows that from our weaknesses we can create great strength and things we cannot do alone, we can do together with friends. The Samurai Kids have action-packed adventures, they triumph over villains and they travel all over the known world. They also make mistakes, laugh at each other and occasionally get frustrated at the things they can’t do as well as others.

I first met Niya, the narrator, when I was driving to the supermarket. “My name is Niya Moto and I am the only one-legged Samurai kid in Japan” he said. The sentence burrowed into my brain. I wanted to know more about him, his friends, his teacher – and what did a samurai kid learn anyway.

I decided to look a little deeper, more first hand, into Niya’s world. I tucked up one leg, standing calm and still. ‘Aaeeyagh’ I shouted and launched into a dramatic Kung-fu kick. Then I had another sentence. “Famous for falling flat on my face.’

Kids laugh when I tell that story. But they are never laughing at Niya because their admiration is obvious. They are impressed he had a go. My characters feel the same way. They laugh at themselves too – sometimes it is funny to fall on your face no matter how many legs you have. And sometimes it is hard to dust yourself off but the help of good friends and the encouragement of a wise teacher make it a lot easier.

Niya’s next words to me were: “Did you feel how it felt? To stand there so still and perfectly balanced. Like the White Crane.” He didn’t focus on the fall but the connection he felt to the spirit of the White Crane and the balancing skills that would see him win an important wrestling match.

I admire Niya. He’s brave and gutsy, funny and witty. He can’t run fast or swim well but he can outwit the Dragon Master and he’s the best archer in the Tateyama Mountains. He’s my hero and I’m thrilled I can continue to tell his story. Monkey Fist won’t be the last adventure for the Samurai Kids. A fifth and sixth book are scheduled for the series.

Follow the tour:Samurai kids illustration

Sat Aug 1 Dee White

Sun Aug 2 Dale Harcombe

Mon Aug 3 here!

Tues Aug 4 Sally Odgers

Wed Aug 5 Mabel Kaplan

Thurs Aug 6 Sally Murphy

Fri Aug 7 Robyn Opie

Sat Aug 8 Rebecca Newman

Sun Aug 9 Susan Stephenson

Mon Aug 10 Jefferey E Doherty