Today I finally continue our superhero celebration with Part 2: a superhero picture book list. As you can imagine given the subject matter, superhero books abound. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but more a sampling of the ones that fit the broad topic covering I was trying to achieve. So let’s get started with superhero picture books!
1. Brief Thief by Michaël Escoffier and Kris Di Giacomo, 2013
I have reviewed this book fairly extensively and enthusiastically, so I won’t go into it more here. Let’s just sum it up by saying this continues to be an absolute favorite book of mine with perfectly placed potty humor. It was a massive hit with my reading class and brought all the expected laughs and more. The superhero theme is subtle, but fantastic. I used it to open the whole class on superheroes, before I told the kids what our theme was. The surprise was marvelous and set the tone. Trust me. Read this book. And be on the lookout for this creative duo’s newer book also about superheroic things: The Day I Lost My Superpowers.
2. Ten Rules of Being a Superhero by Deb Pilutti, 2014
This is a fun book about a little boy, who goes by the name of Lava Boy, and is the sidekick to a small plastic superhero named Captain Magma. It is a funny plot-line of the boy doing his very best to sincerely carry out his duties as superhero and sidekick, all while having to balance the rules of being a superhero and the rules of being a kid in the real world. His heart is in the right place while listing out the rules, but each one ends up looking a bit different than its most serious form. Things like “being a superhero is messy, but everyone understands” quickly turns into sighs as he has to clean up after himself while Mom looks on in the background. It is tough to be a superhero, especially when babies might awaken from your noise, naps must be taken, and birds interfere by taking the ever-important Captain Magma. This is definitely a fun, non-specific superhero book that is made even more fun by letting the listeners announce each rule number as it comes!
3. Superhero ABC by Bob McLeod, 2008
I’ll be very honest in stating that this book is too long, but at the same time, the concept is really great and was perfect for my intentions. I appreciated this book’s creativity in showing that superheroes can be incredibly made up and often hysterical. The book is mainly an alphabet book with each page stating a specific superhero with a name that starts with a corresponding letter. A brief description of their strengths and/or weaknesses follows. It drags a little near the middle, but few alphabet books don’t. In my opinion, this is a great read-on-your-own book that hopefully sparks conversation and ideas for creating your own superhero name and powers.
4. Skippyjon Jones by Judy Schachner, 2005
This book is a total stretch on the superhero scale, but it is just so darn funny. And the Spanish vocabulary sprinkled throughout in appropriate or bizarro ways was perfect for my very bilingual South Bronx kiddos. If you aren’t familiar with Skippyjon Jones yet, he is a little Siamese cat who dons a mask and thinks he is a crime-fighting Chihuahua. He creates mayhem throughout his room while in a timeout and daydreaming. It is fun to read-aloud (although I highly recommend familiarizing yourself with it before-hand as the Spanish incorporations might trip you up) and it is another creative take on what it looks like to be a real or imagined superhero character.
So those were the books we had time for in my hour-long class, along with the chapter book we read as the main feature. I was a little bummed as I had so many other great fits for the superhero theme. But I will gladly talk them up here and suggest you try some of these as well.
1. Kapow! by George O’Connor, 2007
This book is great in illustration while a little confusing if not read alone or one-on-one. It is about a little boy who becomes a superhero of his own creation and the spreads shift from real to imaginary with each page-turn. It is a fun and quick read.
2. The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man by Michael Chabon, illustrated by Jake Parker, 2011
Another clever and fabulously illustrated book, Awesome Man is an incredible superhero with eyeballs that can shoot positronic rays, persistent strength that allows him to hug even a Jell-O!-like villian, and many more fantastic tricks. There are clues about his secret throughout each spread while Awesome Man saves the day with his superhero pooch, but if you aren’t paying close-enough attention, it may catch you by surprise in the end.
3. Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman by Marc Tyler Nobleman, illustrated by Ty Templeton, 2012
This book fits in the longer category and it stretches the superhero theme, but it is marvelous and non-fiction! Batman is a well-known superhero, but the story centers around the man who imagined Batman, his costume, backstory, and more; though he never received credit for any of it. Bill Finger was a struggling artist who helped come up with the character but was always strategically left out of the creator info. To this day, his devoted fans are fighting for justice in getting him recognized as the co-creator of such an infamous figure. It is a fascinating story.
4. Ladybug Girl by David Soman and Jacky Davis, 2008
I have recently become a huge fan of David Soman’s work which led me to wonder why I have never picked up the Ladybug Girl book or its following series. Soman’s illustrations are incredibly lovely and upon first-read of Ladybug Girl, I swiftly ran to my daughter and read it through with her as well. It is a sweet and delightful book, all about a girl who dons a costume and declares herself a character fit to do anything despite her always being told she can’t. Female superheroes are scarce, and while this aims more for a younger audience, it is a delight in celebrating imagination and adventures.
5. Superworm by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, 2014
This is by far the most bizarre hero on the superhero list, but fans of The Gruffalo and Room on the Broom books will be in love with those creators’ newest story as well. You might be surprised to think that the insect world needs a superhero too, but nothing is too difficult for Superworm to handle. Well, until Superworm seems to meet his match in a Wizard Lizard and his friends have to find a way to save his day. Clever, funny, and completely wacky.
Finally, I am going to make this long post even longer by adding two more books that I dearly love for the superhero theme. One is a chapter book and one a graphic novel, but both excellent and on my favorites list.
1. Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by K.G. Campbell, 2013
This book is about a squirrel who has an unfortunate run-in with a vacuum and comes out not only alive, but with superpowers. Need I say more? In addition, it is written by the always amazing Kate DiCamillo and it includes fantastic illustrations and occasional several page spreads in comic-form by K.G. Campbell. It is heartwarming, hilarious, insanely unique and should be read by everyone. And the 2014 Newbery committee agreed with me too!
2. Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke, 2011
I wrote a very brief review of this a while ago on my bookshelf tumblr, but I think it fits perfectly in our obscure superhero list. I am a huge fan of graphic novels and I sincerely support them as great reading. With a solid, endearing plot and a loveable, while flawed heroine, this is a great graphic novel. Ben Hatke’s art is stunning and this is an addicting graphic novel series for any age.
Well, there you have a non-exhaustive, and yet, very long superhero list of picture books and more. I would love to hear your tried and true superhero favorite books. There is just something about superheroes that are always a win.