The Shadow Hero
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Shadow Hero, by Gene Luen Yang (American Born Chinese, Boxers & Saints), is a graphic novel that creates a backstory for what might be the first Asian American comic book superhero, the Green Turtle, an obscure 1940s comic book character. It subverts stereotypes about Asian characters while celebrating Chinese culture. There are many fistfights, car chases, and gunfights, and people close to Hank, the main character, are injured and killed. Sexual content is limited to some flirting between Hank and the mysterious young woman known as "Red," and there are only one or two instances of "damn" and "hell." Hank's father's friends force the boy to drink a shot of whiskey, which he doesn't like.
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What's the Story?
In Chinatown in the 1930s, teenager Hank Chu wants nothing more than to help his mild-mannered father in the family grocery story and keep his disgruntled mother happy. Hank's mother, however, has bigger plans for him, wanting to turn him into a famous superhero. But when real-life tragedy strikes and Hank is imbued with the ancient spirit of the Tortoise, the boy finally dons the costume of the Green Turtle and vows revenge on the gangsters who secretly rule Chinatown.
Is It Any Good?
THE SHADOW HERO is a clever, heartfelt ode to -- and send-up of -- books from the golden age of comics. Author Gene Luen Yang invents a complex backstory for an obscure comics character from the 1940s, the Green Turtle. He and artist Donny Liew spin an exciting tale of costumed derring-do that plays with the conventions of superhero comics and comments on how Asian Americans were viewed by popular culture in decades past. It's not deep, but it is fun, and enriched by the explanatory essay that concludes the volume.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about why comics and graphic novels are so popular with young readers. Why are superhero titles in particular so popular?
How were Asian characters portrayed in popular culture in the 1940s? Do any stereotypes continue to the present day?
How did World War II affect the lives of Asian immigrants living in the United States?
- Author: Gene Luen Yang
- Illustrator: Sonny Liew
- Genre: Adventure
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts, Superheroes, Holidays
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: First Second
- Publication date: July 15, 2014
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 12 - 18
- Number of pages: 176
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: February 6, 2020
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