March-April 2018 Issue
March 08, 2018

Check it Out: Kitten and the Dojo Code

Source: NYSUT United

Written and Illustrated by Jessica Wagner

Check it out: Kitten and the Dojo Code bookcoverRecommended by: Tina Klar, instructional support specialist, New Hartford Teachers Association

Suitable for: grades K–5

Why I chose it: This book is a poetic narrative about a shy kitten who begins to learn karate, yet is doubtful about her ability to master it. The book explains the principles of karate, the dojo code: modesty, courtesy, integrity, self-control, perseverance and indomitable spirit.

What I like best: A main theme of the book is grit and perseverance. With the help of her teacher, the sensei, Kitten sees that through hard work, practice and determination she will master karate. Since we have all faced difficult situations, adults and children alike can connect with Kitten. The book also reinforces a sense of community as Kitten watches different animals at varying levels working to improve their skills. Wagner chose the animal characters carefully and used color themes to match the belt levels as the animals progress.

How teachers can use this book: This book is an excellent resource for teaching about growth mindset and determination. Students can reflect on how Kitten's feelings change from the beginning of the story to the end, and how the other animals help her see that she can achieve her goal. Students can share times when they felt nervous or unsure but were able to overcome their worries. Teachers can also use this book to teach poetry and writing traits, and work with students on how word choice affects meaning and voice.

About the author: Jessica Wagner has taught first grade in Williamsville for 15 years, and is a member of the Williamsville TA. She is a brown belt in Isshin-ryu Karate. Visit

"Check it Out" features books recommended to teachers and parents by school librarians and other educators. Have a recommendation? Send suggestions, along with your name and local union, to