Authors: Earle Castledine and Craig Sharkie
Format: Paperback, 300 pages
Publisher: SitePoint; 1st edition (February 22, 2010)
Chapter 1 is pretty much a combination high-level overview for jQuery and an advertisement selling the audience on its virtues. I don't disdain this. After all, if you aren't sold on the value of jQuery for your web designs, why buy the book in the first place, right? If you're at your favorite bookstore (do people still buy books at stores rather than online anymore?) and you're trying to make up your mind about jQuery (let alone this book), skimming the first chapter should help you with your decision.
About a quarter of the way through, I thought I'd see how much value the companion website added to the book. As usual, you can buy the book online from the publisher's site, download the sample code (so you don't have to keyboard all the code examples by hand), submit errata, and post questions on a discussion forum. I was looking for that magic combination between web and hardcopy that would make learning a new language or library streamlined. Unfortunately, I didn't find it. Let's face it, programming is hard for the beginner. I'm not trying to be discouraging, but it takes not only a lot of practice and dedication to learn programming, but you have to possess the ability to conceptualize problems as solvable using programming logic. Not everyone can do that, or at least, some people are better at it than others.
I didn't test the code, so I can't tell you how well it works (and I've encountered books before where it was impossible for the sample code to produce the effect described by the book's text). You probably want to hit the book's web site and review the errata section, making some notes in the book before performing the exercises, just to prevent a few minutes (or hours) trying to solve a problem that's already known and corrected. You can also visit the discussion forum to see if other readers have had common issues with specific areas of the book. Proficiency in learning is all about doing your homework, both within and outside the text.
A lot of people, even experienced developers, will just Google the effect they want to produce, find the relevant jQuery online, download, copy and paste, and then perform a little minor tweaking to get it to work on their site. This book proposes to actually teach you how to write your own jQuery, or at least, teach you how to understand the work of others that you want to use for yourself (with the permission of those "others", of course). Expect to get around halfway through the text before you've learned enough to get you to the point of starting to write your own original code.
Starting out as a jQuery novice is easy. We all start there (assuming we're all trying to learn jQuery). How far you get into the "ninja" range depends on how far you progress into the book and how well you integrate the learning into your programming activities. While I found the book a good jQuery guide for beginners, I don't think it's one-stop-shopping as far as turning the reader into a world-class jQuery guru...not unless the reader sticks with it, goes through the book, goes through certain portions of the book again, and keeps expanding his or her knowledge and experience.
jQuery: Novice to Ninja may not actually make you the master of the art of invisibility, or even the art of jQuery, but it is a very slick book, and the best example of a jQuery book I've seen cross my path yet. If you're looking for jQuery "ninjahood", this book might not garner you that honor all by itself, but it should put you well down the right path to that destination.