This article is by Publisher Liaison Christina Moorehead
How do you define hero? Some people conjure up images of caped and masked super-powered characters who leap off the pages of comics to roar into action from television and movie screens.
Are these the only kinds of heroes to be found? Absolutely not!
Within the pages of these amazing books we find other kinds of heroes—both real and imagined—who have the power to tickle our funny bones, inspire our dreams, and create impactful, real world changes.
Maybe, just maybe, defining “heroes” is more challenging than we think!
Who says heroes have to be serious? From caped kids to grown cosplayers, there is a lot of fun to be had in pretending to be a superhero. A good place to start is with Davide Cali Gómez’s How to Become a Superhero (NubeOcho). Hilarious illustrations combine with plenty of “how to” advice as readers are taken step-by-step through the superhero building process. And once young readers have achieved all the how-to’s, they can meet a fellow kid superhero in SuperJoe Does NOT Say Sorry by Michael Catchpool with illustrations by Emma Proctor (Lantana Publishing). Here we learn that SuperJoe’s super imagination catapults him into plenty of superhero adventures—leaving behind plenty of super messes that need cleaning up! Behind all of SuperJoe’s adventurous fun is a gentle message about consideration that is well taken—for superheroes and regular folks alike.
Of course, humans aren’t the only creatures capable of being heroes—both in our imaginations, and in real life. We find a fictional and furry superhero creature ready to save the day in Supermouse and the Volcano of Doom, by H. N. Tahl, with illustrations by Mark Chambers (Tiger Tales). This lift-a-flap delight introduces us to Supermouse, whose help is in constant demand—making him a super tired Supermouse indeed! It is when Supermouse is faced with an erupting Mount Fondue that he discovers asking for help makes him even more super than ever.
While Supermouse is a creature of the imagination, there are plenty of real life super dogs who are certainly heroes! In Valeria Aloises Dogs Who Work, illustrated by Margot Tissot and translated for English readers by Jeffrey K. Butt (Helvetiq), we learn about real hero dogs who work to search for missing people, serve as the eyes for people with vision challenges, who help keep people healthy as medical alert dogs, and much more. Bow wow WOW!
Human history is filled with true tales of everyday people whose bravery and clear thinking turned them into heroes. Many of these tales are well-known—and even more are not. Wonderful Hair: The Beauty of Annie Malone by Eve Nadel Catarevas, with illustrations by Felicia Marshall (Creston Books), tells the true story of Annie Malone, a young Black American girl with a tremendous talent—and love—for helping people care for their hair. When Annie started seeing her sister and other girls with bald patches on their scalps, she realized that the chemicals they were using to straighten their hair were actually destroying their hair. Annie set right to work to create a natural hair treatment that would help the girls’ hair grow back. When it worked, demand grew for Annie’s hair treatments—which became the starting spark of Annie’s career and life-long heroic journey.
Another little-known hero in the making receives an introduction to young readers through a picture book biography by Elisa Boxer, illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley: Splash! Ethelda Bleibtrey Makes Waves of Change (Sleeping Bear Press). When Ethelda was 15 years old, she contracted polio, a disease that caused her great pain and weakness, and left her with a curved spine. When her doctor recommended swimming as a way to treat the pain and strengthen her muscles, Ethelda didn’t even know how to swim. But once she discovered that the water freed her from pain, there was no stopping her from becoming the swimmer, activist, and hero she was meant to be!
How to be Our Own Heroes
The beautiful thing about being a hero is that a person can be a hero by helping just one other individual, or by working with many heroes who together help a great many people. Caroline Stevan’s Citizen She: The Global Campaign for Women’s Voting Rights, illustrated by Elina Braslina (Helvetiq), is one example of how many individual people, working towards the same goal, can create heroic change. Along with specific descriptions of non-violent ways to speak out and protest unjust practices—in this case, to promote and protect voting rights for women—this powerful book introduces readers to individual heroic activists from the past as well as the present.
Perhaps the most heroic thing that we can all do (and that is well within our daily grasp) is to make the everyday world a better place in which to live. With that in mind, then Human Kindness by John Francis, with illustrations by Josy Bloggs (What on Earth Books) offers us a guidebook. Inspired by author’s 17-year vow of silence and cross-country walk as Planetwalker, Human Kindness is a scaffolding for us to use to build our own kindness in the world. From stories of historically and famously kind people to advice on how we can be more kind to our world, our fellow human beings, and to ourselves, this book stands tall to make heroes of us all.
The example of kindness and empathy that John Francis embodies in his life and book Human Kindness is seen most clearly in the heroes that touch our lives every day in our local communities. They’re Heroes, Too by Pat Brisson and illustrated by Anait Semirdzhyan (Tilbury House Publishers) celebrates the people we meet in our own communities as the heroes who wear scrubs instead of capes, who bake our bread instead of fly through the skies, and who collect our trash instead of grabbing up supervillains. Our local heroes come in all ages and care for our parks, pick us up when we fall, and hold out hands of friendship in a million little, unexpected ways. Surely these are among the truest heroes of all!
We hope these amazing books spark your own heroic imaginations and inspire your own inner hero. Remember: you don’t need a cape to be a hero!