Monday, June 15, 2015

Almost Super

Almost Super
Marion Jensen
HarperCollins, 2014  251 pgs
Grades 3-6

Rafter and his brother Benny are both excited and anxious.  Today, leap-year-day at 4:23 pm, the boys will both have their super powers revealed.  Rafter and Benny are part of the Bailey family: a family who's members genetically (or by marriage) inherit super abilities the first leap year after their twelfth birthday.  Finally the moment has arrived and Rafter instantly feels the change.  Unfortunately, the universe has not been kind.  Both boys have inherited duds.  Rafter is given the ability to light a match off of polyester and Benny can make his belly button pop in and out; not exactly helpful for saving the world.  This means no super-hero outfit, no fighting battles, and now they must endure indentured servitude at the family motor pool. Worse of all, it appears that their schoolmate and member of the nemesis family of super-villains, Juanita Johnson, is a super-super, all the traits rolled into one.  After a nearly destructive incident in the school media center Rafter, Benny and Juanita have a talk.  It seems that Juanita was actually given a dud as well.  She has the ability to unclog toilets with her mind .Even though the three young people are from rival families, they form an uneasy alliance to try to get their families to stop fighting each other.  It is revealed that neither side is evil and they both think that they are saving the world from the other family.  There is actually a third party involved; a whole new family with the ability to strip heroes of their powers.  Do Rafter, Benny and Juanita have traditional and useful powers after all?  Who is this new enemy?  Can they actually get their families to stop fighting and ban together for the common good?  These and other questions will be answered by the conclusion of the book.

My quest for great superhero book choices continues as I prepare for my "Every Hero has a Story" summer reading club.  This choice is a lot of fun and will be gobbled up when put in the right hands.  Savvy (Law, 2008) meets the Incredibles in this updated Hatfields/McCoys story.  Jensen writes for his audience, providing non-stop action, slapstick/potty humor, and every kid's fantasy.  Who wouldn't want to morph into a superhero at age twelve?  The jokes never stop even as the the situation looks grim and the action heats up.  The chapter names sport a funny line from within a chapter and it became a game for me to try to spot it as I was reading.  Even though Almost Famous is silly and far-fetched, it still brings home some important lessons such as what being "super" really means, family loyalty, not judging a book by its cover, and the ridiculousness of feuding and unnecessary violence.  The book is meaty enough to satisfy teachers requiring at least 200 pages for a book reports, yet has wide margins, large print, and short enough chapters to not turn off reluctant readers.  There are no illustrations, making it a step up from the "Wimpy Kid" series.  Boys are the obvious audience, but girls will like it, too.  Give Almost Super to younger children ready for a challenge or older children, who are reluctant readers.  Most plot lines are resolved by the end of this volume, but the new evil family that emerges must be battled against.  This leads the reader straight to the next installment in the series Searching for Super, which was released in January of this year.

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