Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem—The Making of a Ninja! Adapted by Nicole Johnson. Illustrated by Patrick
Spaziante. Random House. $5.99.
Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem—Official Activity Book. Random House. $7.99.
It helps to remember that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were created
as a joke – specifically a parody of superhero comics of the 1980s (X-Men, Daredevil and the like), right
down to the details of the TMNT world (Daredevil had a sensei named Stick, so the mutant turts got one named Splinter). Forty
years later, the TMNT world has expanded in every sort of direction and spawned
(so to speak) innumerable movies, books, forms of merchandise (lots of merchandise), TV shows, even a
live-action stage musical. Most real-world turtles may be a tad slow, but the
TMNT franchise shows no sign of slowing down, having recently spawned (again,
so to speak) yet another movie, this one called Mutant Mayhem.
It helps to remember that TMNT-style mayhem is decidedly on the mild
side, very comic-bookish, filled with noise and old-fashioned superhero poses
and lots of grrrring and arrrgghhhing but lacking any actual, you know, damage to characters. Mutant Mayhem, in fact, turns on the
idea that the TMNT team really wants to team up with other mutants after convincing those characters that it’s better to
be good than, you know, bad.
Throw in the TMNT’s love and almost perpetual consumption of pizza, and
their names taken from Italian Renaissance artists, and you have a recipe not
only for films (both animated and live-action) but also for books based on the
films – with the latest being Mutant
Mayhem tie-ins. For young children just being drawn into the TMNT universe,
a good starting point (and good reminder of the latest movie) is The Making of a Ninja! A thin,
easy-to-read paperback, the book introduces the four turts individually and discusses
the differences among their personalities (something not always evident in the
TMNT universe). It never quite explains those weird masks tied on with ribbons
that trail behind the turts’ heads and do nothing to conceal their identities
(as if that mattered), nor does it explain just how each TMNT was assigned a
specific color of costume elements (blue for Leonardo, red for Raphael, orange
for Michelangelo, purple for Donatello). But the book shows the colors and the turts wearing them, tells what special
abilities each of them brings to the group, discusses their weapons, introduces
Splinter and TMNT friend April O’Neil, and manages to toss in enough of the
plot of Mutant Mayhem so kids who
have seen the movie will be enjoyably reminded of it.
Kids who want to immerse themselves further in the latest iteration of the TMNT world through some mildly involving at-home activities will enjoy the Official Activity Book tied into the most-recent movie. There are find-the-word puzzles, draw-the-characters pages (divided into grids for ease of copying each character bit by bit), a connect-the-dots-into-boxes game focused on pizza slices, an unscramble-the-letters page about the turts’ weapons, and two full pages of stickers – which can be placed in a two-page spread of blank comic panels, to which kids can then add narrative or dialogue of their own. There are letter-substitution games, a pizza-slice-shaped maze, and some pages that contain no activities but are simply illustrations of various characters from Mutant Mayhem. The whole book is pleasant, mostly on the silly side, and certainly not to be taken seriously – making it a fine companion to the latest TMNT movie and to the entire long-running TMNT franchise.