Friday, May 1, 2015

Every Hero Does Indeed Have A Story- Unmask it!

    Superheroes and their many and varied stories are the focus of this year's Summer of Reading program. I decided to read as widely as I could to find some books that librarians, parents and caregivers could use in displays, school visits etc. to promote the various SOR events and to drum up interest in the theme. This year's theme is especially catchy and sooo many books tie into it which makes it even more exciting!  I can just see kids coming to the various SOR events dressed as their favorite superheroes.

Kapow by George O' Connor features some friends dressed in their superhero garb. In their minds however they are fearless defenders of the city. The kid dressed as American Eagle's mom has already warned the kids about hitting, a fact that his younger brother (dressed as the Rubber Bandit) reminds him. The kids keep playing and then an accident occurs. What to do?  Taking responsibility for one's actions is a great lesson to learn and is what a true superhero would do.

Superfab Saves the Day by Jean Leroy is about a rabbit who is super fabulous- his walk-in closet is a marvel. This rabbit is not just a snazzy dresser however- he is also a superhero. Superfab's keen fashion sense begins to hinder his career until he is no longer called. Then one day Superfab is the only one who can save the day.  This book is

The Day I lost my Superpowers by Michaël Escoffier is a cute tale told from a child's first person perspective. He describes all the fabulous things he is capable of (flying off his bed, making food disappear etc until one day he loses his powers and has to count on the help of another family member who has powers of her own. This is a cute little read aloud.

Girls can do anything boys can and that includes doning a cape and saving the day. In Super Red Riding Hood by Claudia Dávila a little girl ventures into a forest to pick raspberries for a snack but runs into a hungry wolf. She uses her super skills to evade the famished creature but then uses perhaps her best power of all-kindness to save the day.

Not all heroes are born great. In fact some heroes don't save planets or worlds but do small things to help themselves or their family. In Superhero Joe by Jacqueline Preiss Weitzman, we meet a boy called Joe. He doesn't seem very heroic. In fact, he used to be scared of many things. One day he got a cape and a special shield and from that moment life changed for him drastically.

For readers who are a little older, here are some good reads that they can sink their teeth into. The Adventures of Beanboy by Lisa Harkrader is not one of those books where the kid turns into a superhero or where the superhero saves the kid. The hero in this book is a regular kid who helps his overowrked mom out with caring for his special needs younger brother. He does well in school and generally stays out of trouble. Beanboy must make some hard choices when he has an opportunity to help someone out who needs help but is not too keen on accepting help.

Another book that I found to be good reading was Ordinaryboy by William Boniface. Ordinaryboy ("OB" to his parents) is the only normal person in Superopolis. He pals around with his friends, each of whom have a quirky super power and they call themselves the Junior Leaguers.  The illustrations throughout are actual pages from the Li'l Hero's Handbook. They all adore Amazing Indestructo and buy anything with his likeness on it. When some trading cards come out the group finds that there is a sinister plot at hand and it is up to the Junior Leaguers to stop a dastardly villain. This book operated on various levels and adults would finish it and reflect on some of the themes discussed. Young readers would identify with OB as although he is a normal kid, he is able to hold his own.

This last book for younger readers is about another ordinary kid. He is made more ordinary by the fact that his older brother is the local football star. Tragedy strikes however and Newton "Newt" Newman  finds himself saving the day as Captain Nobody. It's a bit cliche to say it but this book has a lot of heart and for this reason it is perhaps my favorite of the bunch.  Yes the events are a bit fantastical but I this kid is one of the most unselfish characters I have seen in any of the superhero novels. Good for him.

 I was fooled. I thought that this next book was about a kid superhero called Stainlezz Steel who went about his hood defeating bad guys. the first few pages showed him bragging about defeating heavyweights super-villains.  I thought yes here is someone the kids can root for and he is a superhero of color also!

It turned out not to be entirely true. Yes our hero is a person of color but he is not exactly a titan. Kenny Wright is a public school kid, and one who lives in a tough part of Washington D.C.  He is street smart but not a hoodrat thanks in part to the unwavering guidance of his grandmother whom he calls G-Ma. There are bullies, school issues and other matters to deal with and sometimes he finds himself in strange situations where he has to think really hard about making good choices. I like how the authors chose to keep the focus of the book on high academic expectations throughout. Kenny Wright is indeed a public school superhero.

Coming-of-age stories abound and  Battling Boy by Paul Pope follows a well trodden theme i.e. the alien coming to Earth to save the day. Where the story differs in Battling Boy is that the young protagonist (barely into his teens) is prone to rash decisions. His sojourn on Earth is a mere test of his ability to follow in the footsteps of his father, himself a mighty warrior. This very strong kid armed with a closet full of power t-shirts arrives in Acropolis at a pivotal moment in the city's fight with a scourge of monsters. Acropolis' hero, Haggard West has just been killed and the monsters are making plans for total domination. Battling Boy is going to have to grow up really fast in the face of all these challenges.

The Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks introduces us to a young woman who is a great superhero capable of beating bands of ninjas and bashing giant monsters. Her love life is so-so and she sometimes has trouble making her half of the rent. Hicks' character is someone to root for. (And you'd better, or else she'll pound ya)

Thus ends my round up. What books do you recommend? Feel free to leave a comment. Cheers!


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