Wonder Woman at Super Hero High

I’ve loved Wonder Woman since I first saw Lynda Carter spin around when I was a kid. My parents have pictures of my three-year-old self posing in my Wonder Woman Underoos. I have Wonder Woman action figures, comic books, t-shirts, and even Converse shoes. There’s a Wonder Woman display in my school library. I buy my nieces Wonder Woman stuff for birthdays, holidays, or whenever the mood strikes me. So of course I had to read Wonder Woman at Super Hero High, the first book in the DC Super Hero Girls series by Lisa Yee. I’m just embarrassed it took me so long to get around to it. (It was released nearly a year ago.)

Super Hero High is the place to be for teen super heroes…and Wonder Woman wants in. After spending her entire life on Paradise Island (also known as Themyscira) with her mother, Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, Wonder Woman finally convinces her mom that she needs to be trained as a proper super hero. Off to Super Hero High she goes!

With a positive outlook and a desire to make a difference, Wonder Woman enters the hallowed halls of Super Hero High. Even though some things perplex her (like slang and sarcasm), she’s determined to be a successful student.

Almost immediately, she makes a few friends–like Bumblebee, Katana, Hawkgirl, and Harley Quinn (who’s also her roommate)–but it seems she’s also made an enemy or two. Someone keeps leaving notes for her indicating that she’s not wanted at Super Hero High. Who could dislike her so much?

With Harley Quinn videoing every move she makes and someone leaving her mean notes, Wonder Woman is feeling the pressure to be the best, especially when she factors in her desire to be on the school’s Super Triathlon team. Can she make a difference when so much is weighing on her? Can she possibly figure out who wants her gone?

Join Wonder Woman and many other familiar faces to find out if they’ve got what it takes to be true heroes!


I’ve glossed over a lot here, and that’s sort of intentional. It’s a fast, entertaining read, and I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. A few things I will say, though:

  • I love that Wonder Woman has kind of an Amelia Bedelia vibe in this book. She’s very literal, and it’s fun to see how someone who’s been so removed from slang and popular culture navigates through high school.
  • Speaking of high school, who knew super heroes had it just like the rest of us? Mean girls, struggling to make friends, bullies, striving to make good grades, living up to parents’ expectations. It’s all there, and it’s nice to see that even those with super powers deal with the same stuff we all do.
  • If you’re not familiar with DC comic book characters now, you soon will be. I know a lot of the characters mentioned in this book thanks to the old Adam West Batman TV series, some DC movies (some good, others not so much), and the wonderful programming on the CW. Wonder Woman at Super Hero High introduced me to some I didn’t know much about, and I look forward to reading more adventures of these super (and not-so-super) heroes as teenagers.

Wonder Woman at Super Hero High is a great fit for elementary and middle school libraries. Considering that many kids (and adults) read DC comics and collect action figures, there’s a ready-made audience just waiting for this book and those like it.

The next two books in the DC Super Hero Girls series are Supergirl at Super Hero High and Batgirl at Super Hero High. Both are already out. The fourth book, Katana at Super Hero High should be out on July 4th of this year.

If you’d like more information on Wonder Woman at Super Hero High and the series as a whole, visit author Lisa Yee’s website.

Enjoy!

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World

I think I established a couple of weeks ago that I adore Squirrel Girl. Well, that’s even more true now that I’ve read The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World. This novel, written by Shannon and Dean Hale, gives readers a look into how Doreen Green became one of the funniest, most optimistic, and most lovable superheroes to hit the Marvel scene.

Fourteen-year-old Doreen Green has a tail, she’s fast and super-strong, she understands Chitterspeak (squirrel language), and she loves nuts. She’s basically a human with lots of squirrely qualities. She and her family have just moved to New Jersey from California, and she’s looking to make some new friends–both human and squirrel.

It’s not easy, though, when you’re new in town. At first, the neighborhood squirrels don’t know quite what to make of her. They’re not used to people like Doreen. (To be fair, there are no other people like Doreen.) Eventually, Doreen forms a friendship with Tippy-Toe, a feisty little tree squirrel.

Making human friends proves to be even more complicated than connecting with the squirrel community. The popular kids at school don’t want to have anything to do with Doreen. They even make fun of her backside. (Doreen knows they’d probably love her big, beautiful squirrel tail, but she has to hide it at school. You’d have a large, curvy backside too if you had to stuff a huge, furry tail in your jeans all the time.)

Doreen does find one (rather reluctant) friend in Ana Sofia, a deaf, Latina girl who’s been investigating the increasing crime levels around town. When Doreen puts together the alarming number of squirrel traps in town, Ana Sofia’s investigations, and some weird buzzing things that are making the neighborhood dogs crazy, there’s only one logical conclusion. Her new town has a supervillain at work!

Well, when there’s a supervillain causing chaos, a superhero needs to save the day. Doreen knows what she must do. She finally becomes who she was always meant to be–Squirrel Girl! She helps humans and squirrels alike, and she works to figure out who is behind the pandemonium in town. She seeks help from a couple of Avengers, but, in the end, it’s up to Squirrel Girl, her new best friend, Ana Sofia, and an army of extremely helpful, talented squirrels.

Does Squirrel Girl have what it takes to be a real superhero? Can she and her new friends stop a criminal mastermind before everything goes nuts? Find out when you read The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World!


In a world that is increasingly dark and depressing, Squirrel Girl is a glimmer of light and happiness. When I was reading this book, it immediately put me in a better mood. Doreen’s voice is totally charming, and I dare anyone who reads this book not to like it…or want more.

This novel is told in third-person, but the reader gets a better glimpse of the awesomeness of Squirrel Girl through first-person footnotes. These notes add to the hilarity of the book and are sure to make readers chuckle.

Squirrel Meets World will be released to the masses next Tuesday, February 7th, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that every school and public library should add it to their collections. It’s great for all ages, and I think it will encourage a whole new brood of readers to pick up the Squirrel Girl comic books. I’m also really hoping that we’ll see more Squirrel Girl novels in the future. I’ll definitely be on the lookout.

For more Squirrel Girl goodness, check out the Squirrel Girl Tumblr site. You can also learn more about author Shannon Hale here.

Finally, many thanks to NetGalley for letting me read this book a little early. I love it!

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Volume 1: Squirrel Power

If you’ve never heard of Squirrel Girl, I strongly urge you to remedy that situation immediately! Until this weekend, I didn’t know much about this unbelievably wonderful superhero, and I’m so glad that I decided to learn more.

In Squirrel Power, the first volume of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Doreen Green, aka Squirrel Girl, is off to college. She’s attending Empire State University as a computer science major, but her crime-fighting is getting in the way of the whole college experience. What’s a girl to do, though, when robbers and assorted super villains attack her fair city? She simply has to act, and she does so with humor, wit, and, of course, squirrels.

Whether she’s going head-to-head with Kraven the Hunter, Galactus, or Whiplash, Squirrel Girl approaches each super villain with the expectation that she–and her squirrel sidekick, Tippy-Toe–will emerge victorious. Does that always involve some epic battle? Not exactly. Sometimes it simply means convincing the bad guy to use a bit of common sense or directing him to a different, less destructive goal. Sometimes, however, it means using all of the squirrel power at her disposal–and maybe some “borrowed” technology from a certain man of iron–to show her nemesis the error of his ways.

Whatever happens, the planet can count on Squirrel Girl when bad stuff goes down. Now, if only she can find some way to balance being a superhero with being a freshman in college!


I cannot say enough good things about this first volume of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. The art is lively, colorful, engaging, and fun. The writing is brilliant, witty, and totally captures the essence of this vibrant character. (Make sure to look for even more hilarity at the bottom of each page!) And I really, really hope Marvel eventually produces the “Deadpool’s Guide to Super Villains” cards that Squirrel Girl uses for reference. I would totally buy those.

Props to writer Ryan North, artist Erica Henderson, and everyone at Marvel for not making Squirrel Girl some unrealistic bombshell. We see enough of those. Squirrel Girl is athletic, muscled, and curvy, and I think someone with her build is much more likely to defeat a beefed up bad guy than a 100-pound woman with all of her business hanging out.

If you’re wondering whether or not to purchase this volume of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl for your library, I would have to give you an emphatic YES! This book/character has wide appeal and is sure to be a hit with comic book readers of all ages. I’m putting a copy in my elementary library, and I would do the same if I were in a middle school, high school, or public library. Having read and reread this first volume, I don’t think there’s anything remotely objectionable about it, and I feel confident recommending it to my students. I think you’ll feel the same.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is a serial comic book. This volume, Squirrel Power, combines books 1-4 (plus Marvel Super-Heroes 8) into one graphic novel. I recommend purchasing this volume–and any others you decide to buy–for a library or classroom because the individual comic books aren’t exactly durable and aren’t produced for multiple users.

If you decide that The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is perfect for your personal, classroom, school, or public library, there are more volumes already out and one coming soon:

  • Volume 2: Squirrel You Know It’s True
  • Volume 3: Squirrel, You Really Got Me Now
  • Volume 4: I Kissed a Squirrel and I Liked It
  • Volume 5: Like I’m the Only Squirrel in the World (published April 4th)

Will all of these volumes be suitable for elementary or middle grades? I can’t say that for sure, but I will definitely be reading them to find out.

There’s also a middle-grade novel about Squirrel Girl coming soon. Shannon and Dean Hale have teamed up to write The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World, and it comes out on February 7th. I have a galley copy of this book that I’ll be posting on here soon. Stay tuned!

For more Squirrel Girl goodness, check out the Squirrel Girl Tumblr site. Enjoy!

Almost Super

A couple of months ago, the South Carolina Association of School Librarians released the nominee lists for next year’s state Book Award program. When I first glanced at the lists, I was surprised by how few of the nominees I’d already read. Since I’m an elementary school librarian, I focus most of my attention on the Picture and Children’s lists, and, until recently, I’d only read two of the nominated titles on those lists. (One of those, Zane and the Hurricane, I’ve already posted on.) Today, though, I was able to check off one more nominee on the Children’s Book Award list, Almost Super by Marion Jensen.

Almost Super is sure to be a big hit with elementary and middle grade readers who enjoy movies like The Incredibles and Despicable Me. This book introduces readers to a family of superheroes…but what will they do when they realize that the supervillains they’ve been battling for years are just like them?

“At 4:23 in the afternoon, on February 29, any Bailey age twelve or over gets a superpower.”

This year, brothers Rafter and Benny Bailey will finally get the superpowers they’ve been waiting for. Will they be able to fly? Have super strength or speed? Shoot fire or water out of their hands? What powers will they get to aid in their family’s fight against the Johnsons, the evil family of supervillains?

When the clock strikes 4:23, Rafter and Benny finally get their long-awaited powers…and they’re total duds. No, they couldn’t get useful powers like flight, strength, speed, or even super-smarts. Nothing useful like that. No, Rafter now has the astounding ability to light matches on polyester, and Benny can turn his belly button from an innie to an outie. It doesn’t look like these two boys will be much help when it comes to fighting crime.

Rafter is shocked by how worthless his new power is. Why did he and Benny get such dumb powers? How can they possibly help the family fight evil with powers like these? Rafter becomes determined to find out just what is going on, and his quest leads him right to one person–Juanita Johnson. (Yes, of the evil supervillain Johnsons.) Did she get a worthless power, too? Or did this embarrassment somehow skip the Johnsons?

As Rafter and Benny learn more from Juanita, they begin to realize that maybe the two families–who’ve been fighting for decades–aren’t all that different. Maybe they both see themselves as superheroes. And maybe there’s an even bigger problem that they need to work together to solve.

Join Rafter, Benny, and Juanita in Almost Super as they uncover a plot to manipulate both of their families and learn that one doesn’t need superpowers to do something truly heroic. Sometimes, being almost super is enough.

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I found Almost Super to be a quirky, witty, thoroughly entertaining read, and I look forward to sharing it with my students. I think this will be a huge hit with those who love comic books and all things superhero. A fun writing exercise to go along with this book may be to have students come up with their own “dud” superpowers and figure out a way for those to be used to fight crime. I’ll have to think a little more about that.

Almost Super does end with a bit of a cliffhanger, so I’m thrilled that the next book, Searching for Super, is already out. I’ll definitely add that one to my next library order!

Within the next week or so, I’ll try to create a book trailer to go along with Almost Super. (I do this with most of the SC Picture and Children’s Book Award nominees. Those I can’t find videos for, anyway.) Check my library YouTube channel periodically to see when it’s posted. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy Almost Super as much as I did.

Flora & Ulysses

What can I say about Flora & Ulysses? It won this year’s Newbery Medal. It was written by acclaimed author Kate DiCamillo and illustrated by K.G. Campbell. And it captured my heart–and imagination–within the first few pages.

Flora & Ulysses tells the tale of Flora Belle Buckman, a self-proclaimed cynic who loves reading comic books, and a very special squirrel we come to know as Ulysses. A chance encounter with a vacuum cleaner transforms a rather unimportant little rodent into a magnificent example of squirrelkind with some very special abilities. Flora is convinced that this squirrel, Ulysses, is a superhero waiting to happen. Everyone else around her isn’t so sure.

Ulysses does, in fact, have some pretty awesome gifts. He can lift heavy vacuum cleaners over his head! He can fly! He can use a typewriter and compose lovely, misspelled poems! But does that make him superhero material? Flora sure seems to think so, and Ulysses would hate to disappoint his new favorite person.

Not everyone thinks as highly of Ulysses as Flora does. Her mother seems to be his most vicious hater. She even plots Ulysses’ demise! What’s Flora to do? Well, she enlists the help of her father, her neighbor, a couple of other unlikely characters, and her own extensive knowledge in her quest to keep Ulysses alive and kicking.

Can Flora convince her mother to abandon her treacherous villainy? Will Ulysses be able to prove that he’s got superhero potential? Will Flora abandon her cynical ways and open her heart to love, hope, and friendship with squirrels and humans alike? Read the illuminated adventures of Flora & Ulysses to find out!

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Okay, so the recap above kind of stinks. It doesn’t even begin to go into everything that happened in this book. Flora’s vocabulary alone was worth at least a paragraph, and I didn’t even mention the strangeness of William Spiver, the great nephew of Flora’s neighbor. (I guess I’m taking care of that now, though, aren’t I?) There was just so much to love in this book that I couldn’t possibly encompass it in one post.

Something that did strike me in this book were how the text and illustrations flowed together to create one beautiful, seamless story. K.G. Marshall, in a few black-and-white drawings, added another layer to this story that I think a lot of comic book enthusiasts (like myself) will appreciate. (This might even go a long way in convincing parents and teachers that reading comic books IS ACTUALLY READING! I know I can use a little extra ammunition in this fight!)

If you haven’t read Flora & Ulysses, I strongly urge you to give it a try. If you’re anything like me, you’ll devour it in one sitting. You’ll fall in love with the characters just like I did…and that is saying something considering that I really don’t like squirrels.

Readers may even see themselves in one or more of the characters, strange as they may be. Personally, I identified with Flora. Why, you ask? Well, let’s see…we share the same taste in hairstyles, glasses, and shoes, and we’re both rather cynical, enjoy comic books, and have extensive vocabularies. Both of us even struggle with our cynical natures from time to time! (Sometimes people–or maybe rodents–surprise us with just how wonderful they can be.)

I wish I could do a better job of communicating just how amazing this book is, but I feel I’m falling short. Let me just say that the Newbery committee made an excellent decision this year. Flora & Ulysses is definitely medal-worthy. Bravo!

For more information on this book and others by Kate DiCamillo, visit the author’s website, and check out the Flora & Ulysses trailer below. It’s much better than any recap I could ever write.

Hero

I’ve always wished I had a superpower.  When I was in middle school, I was picked on a lot, and I always wished I could turn invisible or be able to fry bullies with just a look.  Now, I still wish for superpowers, but I’d like something like super-memory, telekenesis (for when I can’t reach the remote control), regenerative powers, or the ability to lose vast amounts of weight in a short period of time.  What can I say…I’ve matured.  Well, the main character of my latest read, Hero by Perry Moore, has actually discovered that he has a superpower, but he has to hide who he truly is from everyone around him.  Having superpowers isn’t all fun and games, you know.

Thom Creed is not your typical teenager.  Sure, he’s one of the star players on the basketball team and has issues with his father, but there’s definitely something different about Thom.  First of all, his dad is a disgraced superhero.  Secondly, Thom is just discovering his own superpower, the ability to heal, and is being recruited to join the League, a group of the very same superheroes that shunned his dad.  Finally, Thom is gay and hiding it from everyone around him.  But secrets have a way of coming out, so to speak, and Thom can’t stop the flood once it starts.

In Hero, Thom must learn what it truly means to be a hero.  How can he continue to save people when it seems that he’s hated by everyone around him?  Can he join the very group that disowned his father?  What’s the real story behind his father’s disgrace, and where was his mother in all of this?  Whether Thom is ready for these answers or not, he’s about to come face to face with his secrets and those of his family.  On top of all of this, someone is killing the League’s top superheroes, and Thom, along with some of the most unlikely heroes ever, are the only ones who can stop the madness.  Will they be able to save the world?  Can they save themselves while they’re at it?  It is even possible to be a hero and truly keep one’s own identity?  Read Hero by Perry Moore to find out.

I truly enjoyed reading Hero, and I think this would be a great book for LGBT young adults and other readers who are interested in comic books and fantasy fiction.  For more information on Hero and Perry Moore, visit http://home.perrymoorestories.com/.

WATCHMEN

In preparation for the release of the Watchmen movie on March 6th, I decided to reread the greatest graphic novel of all time.  (If you disagree, you are wrong.)  Watchmen, written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons, is by no means an ordinary graphic novel.  If you’re looking for something light and fluffy where the hero is someone you can look up to and is seemingly above reproach, you might want to read something else.

Watchmen takes place in an alternate 1985.  America won the war in Vietnam, Nixon is still President, and masked heroes are outlawed.  The novel begins with the death of one of these masked heroes, the Comedian.  Rorschach, a masked hero who is still active, thinks something is fishy about this murder.  He is convinced, and rightly so, that someone has started killing off or, in some other way, getting rid of current and former masked heros.  Rorschach makes the rounds and visits his former colleagues in crime-fighting:  Nite Owl, Ozymandius, Dr. Manhattan, and the Silk Spectre.  They all discount his ravings until their own lives are disrupted.  Who is getting rid of masked heroes?  Why?  What ultimate purpose could he or she have?  And what will become of the Watchmen?  Well, I’ll leave that for you to discover…

(Note:  The description written above doesn’t begin to come close to being an adequate account of everything that happens in this graphic novel.  I could write all day about the events in the book and their larger cultural, political, and social meanings.  This is more than just a graphic novel.  It is one of the greatest books of all time, in my opinion.  Just trust me.  Read it!)

A word of caution:  Read Watchmen before you see the movie.  The movie may not make a lot of sense if you don’t know what is going on.  And, if you’re a true nerd like myself, half of the fun is figuring out what has been changed in the transition from graphic novel to big screen.  (And from what I hear, a lot, particularly the ending, has been changed.  One reason the novel’s writer, genius Alan Moore, has taken his name off the film.)  I hope the film lives up to my expectations, but it will no doubt fail to come even close to the greatness of the graphic novel.