Earlier this month, Fire Lizard, the much anticipated fifth book in the Samurai Kid’s series was released. I know my boys weren’t the only ones who were really looking forward to it.

Today, Sandy Fussell is back at Kid’s Book Capers to talk about Fire Lizard and how she created this fascinating book.

What inspired you to write Fire Lizard?

As the fifth book in a series, it has a life of its own. I don’t really have much control at all. It was inspired by a combination of the readers and the characters.

What’s it about?

Sensei travels to the hidden valley of the Hwarang warriors in the Kingdom of Joseon, to visit his old teacher, Pak Cho. Much has changed. The villages of the Nine Valleys are terrorised by a corrupt governor and his henchman, Hyo Moon. Pak Cho is blind and frail, but still a powerful man. Sensei and the Little Cockroaches escort Pak Cho through the now dangerous Valleys to deliver a warning message to the governor in Daejeon City.

What age groups is it for?

The Samurai Kids series has found an audience across a wide age group. Perhaps this is best indicated by its selection on the NSW Premiers Reading Challenge for Years 5 -6 and the VIC Premiers Reading Challenge for Years 7 -10.

Why will kids like Fire Lizard?

First and foremost, it is an exciting action adventure, a struggle between good and evil with a martial arts focus. It has a cast of familiar and new characters, a slash of humour, a little cultural mysticism and mythology and an unusual setting.

Can you tell me about the main character and what you like/dislike about him/her?

One of the interesting things about the Samurai Kids series is there is no main character and different readers attach to different favourite Kid. Even though one-legged Niya is the narrator in all the books, he doesn’t assume a driving role except in the first book, White Crane. A different character drives the story line in each book, but not in a sense that I would call them the main character. One of the ongoing challenges of writing Samurai Kids is providing balance between six main characters.

The Kids are so familiar to me that in any situation I know who would be flicking their rice across the room, who wouldn’t be listening to me, who is poking the kid next to him…

Are there any teacher’s notes, associated activities with the book?

The Samurai Kids series has a dedicated website with a range of teacher resources – craft ideas, origami, reading notes, fact sheets, a one-act play, web quests and interactive quizzes.

Is there something that sets this book apart from others?

Each of the Samurai Kids books features a different Kid, a new location in their journey with Sensei and a new martial arts skill added to their repertoire. The story of Fire Lizard is driven by Mikko, who only has one arm and whose spirit guide is the Striped Gecko. This time Sensei and the Kids journey into the Kingdom of Joseon, now known as Korea. There they discover the elite Hwarang warriors, sometimes credited with developing the early techniques of tae-kwon-do.

What did you enjoy most about writing Fire Lizard?

I enjoyed exploring a new corner of history. I knew nothing about 17th century Korea and very little about its geography. I love the fact that each Samurai Kids book teaches me new things.

What was the hardest thing about writing this book?

Two things. It was much more difficult to find reference texts on Korean history than for my earlier settings of China and Japan and half-way through the story, the idea for Book 6 which is set on Cheju Island at the tip of Korea, began to push its way into my head. I wanted to get started on that and had to concentrate hard to finish Fire Lizard! I am easily distracted by the lure of a new story.

Tomorrow at Kids’ Book Capers, I’ll be doing a review of Fire Lizard. Hope you can join us then.

Published by

Dee White

Dee White lives with her husband and two sons in a small rural country town which has more kangaroos than people. She has worked as an advertising copywriter and journalist and has had numerous career changes because until recently, writing wasn’t considered to be a proper job. Letters to Leonardo, her first novel with Walker Books Australia, was published in 2009 to great critical acclaim.


  1. The research aspect sounds really fascinating- thanks for sharing Sandy and Dee! And congrats Sandy on the new release in the series- can’t wait till my grandson is old enough to read them- soon…

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