Surf Ninjas

Surf ninjas / A.L. Singer

Yes, I’m serious. If one of the rights of the reader is the right to read whatever they want then that must include junior novelizations of terrible movies. Luckily for the reader who chooses to read this one, it’s one of the rare adaptations to another medium that ends up even better than the original.

Chiefly due to the lack of Leslie Nielson’s “acting” talents

Plot summary

For those of you who do not remember the plot of this cinematic classic, Surf ninjas is the story of two brothers, rescued from a tiny island nation in Southeast Asia by an American who proceeds to raise the children as his own.

The brothers eventually become way cool surfer dudes. Unfortunately, their best friend is Rob Schneider.

After being rescued from mysterious assassins by Zatch, the brothers discover that they are the sons of the royal family of Patasan.

What follows is a wacky adventure as the brothers attempt to free their homeland from a brutal warlord.

So how is it?

It’s a junior novelization of a movie featuring Leslie Nielson and Rob Schneider. It improves upon the original by virtue of being silent and thus sparing the reader from these two comedic “legends”.

But seriously as far as J Fiction goes it’s not immediately terrible. It tells an adventure story about a family featuring not only a single father but also a single father raising nonbiological children of a different race.

While the Southeast Asian nation is fictional, its culture isn’t usually the butt of the jokes. So while it still is a weak attempt at cashing in on a destined to be ephemeral film it’s not horrifically problematic or racist (which would have been pretty easy given the premise). Instead it’s almost a commentary on the dangers of imperialism and the way Americans use pop culture to blind themselves from serious human rights abuses.

Did I mention that in the film version, Rob Schneider does a Scottish accent?

As is standard for junior novelizations of family films, some of the more “adult” aspects have been toned down. The “car surfing” scene has been cut, as has the “brothers don’t surf” line. Neither one if them was particularly important anyways and the book doesn’t really suffer for it. Zatch’s eyepatch is explained away as hiding a lazy eye for no apparent reason. The classic “money cannot buy knives” jokes as well as using a Game Gear to tell the future remain, which is all you really need.


If you’re looking for a recommedation about a junior novelizations of a 1993 film then your library is either terrible or you’re at Goodwill.

Either way, as far as early chapter books go it’s not terrible and it’s definitely better than “educational” books like Pay attention Slosh.

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