By John David Anderson
Published 2013 by Walden Pond Press
Andrew is indeed a member of H.E.R.O., the elite training organization for superheroes, but that doesn't mean he has any special powers. Well, that's not exactly true - his power is heightened senses. ALL of them, which makes him super-sensitive. It also doesn't mean that his superhero mentor will actually spend any time with him - Drew can count the number of times he's seen him on one hand. But when superheroes begin disappearing and a supervillian reemerges, Drew will stop at nothing to bring about justice.
Another of our Cybils finalists this year, I was looking forward to this one when it was announced to me. I don't read a lot of superhero stuff, but, in general, I like chapter books about superheroes much more than graphic novels about them (I KNOW). I really liked the idea of a sidekick training program and I found Drew's powers fascinating (particularly since my own eyesight, hearing, and sense of smell are all pretty poor).
Having recently reviewed our winner, The Screaming Staircase, and describing it as basically the perfect middle-grade book, I'm going to have to go ahead and apply that same description to this book as well. It is action-packed (I mean, it's about superheroes!), keeping you turning the pages as quickly as you can read them. It's written in an engaging way with characters that are so easy to care about. It's laced with humor that is catered to middle-grade readers sensibilities. It has broad appeal across all genders and many ages (superheroes are pretty ageless, after all).
For me, though, what makes this pretty much the perfect middle-grade/tween book is the morality it deals with. I mean, it's a book about superheroes, which are all about dealing with good and evil and what either of those words even mean. Kids in the 10-14 age range are really grappling with these issues; they are coming into their own identities and figuring out for themselves what's right and what's wrong. Their world is expanding beyond the umbrella of their parents' protection and they are discovering that it's not always a matter of black and white. This book is heartbreaking as Drew learns these things for himself. The emotional sense of this book is just spot on for middle grade readers. I am definitely looking forward to the companion novel!