TaoTao: The Little Samurai is a collection of cartoons about a young boy, Tao, who is attending school to train to be a samurai. Tao means well, but does not always think beyond his next meal, and he finds that the path to mastery is paved with distractions.

Each volume contains a series of titled cartoons. In volume 1, a cartoon titled “Long Is the Road to Lunch” shows Master Irons talking about how a warrior needs to look inside to find their personal motivation. Just then, lunch is called. Tao flies through the course at record speed to get to his food—he has found his personal motivation. And in volume 3, in the cartoon “A Grasshopper’s Eyes Are Bigger than His Stomach,” all the kids are worried about the upcoming quiz. Tao’s biggest worry, however, is over which lunch choice to have, as they are both his favorite. Each page is a self-contained vignette.

Accompanying Tao on his journey are teachers: Master Snow the Headmaster, instructors Master Irons and Master Flip, and fellow students Kat, Lee, and Ray. There is also a rival group, the Phoenix Clan, led by Red Robe and his assistant Blooper. They keep trying to sneak into the dojo to steal Master Snow’s training secrets, but Tao keeps inadvertently thwarting their plans.

The comic provides helpful definitions to words that might not be familiar to kids (dojo, boken). The art is consistent, so it is easy to distinguish one character from another. Master Irons always wears his head scarf. Tao’s head is always shaved except for a long top ponytail. The lone girl student is a little sterotypically girly in some ways—she cares about matching colors, getting bad grades, etc.—but is a great warrior too.

Volume 4 changes up the rhythm of the books by providing a story that takes up the whole book, rather than one-page vignettes. Tao and the other students have gone to the city for a big tournament, but a sacred sword is stolen, and Tao and his friends decide to figure out who took it and get it back.

Volume 5 then goes back to the comic strip format, but now they are just a series of cartoons without the clever titles. It also introduces Ruby, a new girl. I found the storyline in this one a little uninspired: Kat gets jealous of the other girl, which leads to a love triangle involving her, Tao, and Ruby. Tao also gets a new baby brother, Neo, who quickly becomes better at martial arts than he is.

This is a fun series, with clever jokes and easy-to-understand comics. It would be a great addition to any library collection.

Tao: The Little Samurai, vols. 1-5
by Laurent Richard
Art by Nicolas Ryser
Vol. 1: Pranks and Attacks, ISBN: 9781467720953
Vol. 2: Ninjas and Knock Outs!, ISBN: 9781467732727
Vol. 3: Clowns and Dragons!, ISBN: 9781467721752
Vol. 4: The Championship! ISBN: 9781467720977
Vol. 5: Wild Animals!, ISBN: 9781467720984
Graphic Universe, 2014
Publisher Age Rating: Grades 2 and up


  • Emma Weiler

    Past Reviewer

    This reviewer is not longer actively working on our site, but we would not be here if not for our many dedicated contributors over the years. We thank all of them for their reviews, features, and support!

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