Almost Super

(i)

 

Superheroes vs. supervillains in super-funny tale.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Meant to entertain, not educate.

Positive messages

Disappointments can be overcome in unexpected ways. Loyalty to family is important, but so is independent thinking. Working together accomplishes more than working alone. Holding grudges is silly and counterproductive.

Positive role models

Though Rafter Bailey and Juanita Johnson come from warring families of superheroes and have been raised to hate each other, they first learn to coexist and then to actually work together to fight a mysterious evil. Rafter and his brother Benny are good-hearted kids, respectful of their parents and large extended family, but not bound by past grudges.

Violence & scariness

There's mayhem here and there, with the partial destruction of a library and a museum, and cartoonish superhero-on-supervillain violence, but no one ever seems to actually get hurt. There's also considerable hand-to-hand tussling and fighting -- including between adults and kids -- and also explosions, but again, no one gets badly hurt.  

Language
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Almost Super is a light and funny book about two warring superhero families -- one noble, the other villainous -- and what happens when the three newest members (two "good" Bailey brothers, ages 12 and 13, and one "evil" Johnson girl, 13) learn that the powers they've been given are all but worthless. Going against generations of indoctrination about the families' hatred of each other, the three kids must battle a mutual enemy together. There are mildly violent situations throughout and comic mayhem as the kids' superhero relatives unleash their sometimes unusual powers on each other. But no one ever seems to get really hurt, and much of the hatred between families seems to be bluster. There are menacing chases and some fighting (including tense clashes that pit adults against kids), explosions, and at least one bloody nose, but it's all fairly mild stuff. It's more silly than serious, and, as superhero tales go, this is more in the spirit of the The Incredibles than The Avengers. And it's comically narrated by the older Bailey brother.

What's the story?

ALMOST SUPER takes place in the fictional town of Split Rock, where a family of superheroes, the Baileys, have long dedicated themselves to stopping the foul misdeeds of their archenemies: "those vile, evil, dirty, rotten supervillains -- the Johnsons!" Every leap year day for generations, Bailey (and Johnson) children who have turned 12 since the preceding leap year miraculously receive their specialized superpower, such as flying, invisibility, elasticity, or super speed. But when the big moment comes for brothers Rafter and Benny Bailey, their powers are tremendously disappointing and embarrassing: Rafter can light matches on polyester, and Bennie can transform his "innie" belly button to an "outie." How can they be expected to aid in the family fight against the Johnsons, especially after they learn that Rafter's classmate, Juanita Johnson, appears to have become a "Super-super," with a multitude of powers? Over time and after several tense encounters, the Bailey boys learn that Juanita is not what she seems to be, and the three kids secretly join forces to battle an unexpected, sinister evil.

Is it any good?

QUALITY

Almost Super is a comical story that will no doubt remind some readers of the animated film The Incredibles. It's narrated by 13-year-old would-be superhero Rafter Bailey, and first-time author Marion Jensen does an outstanding job getting the reader into the head of his noble but insecure teen protagonist. The book veers smoothly back and forth between silly situations and genuinely exciting action, but the overall tone is light and nonthreatening. Rafter's matter-of-fact descriptions of his eccentric family members and their powers are a hoot, and he unravels the mysteries at the core of the story in a funny, lively, engrossing way. It should be a relatively easy read for most kids. If there's a downside, it's that the story's not completely resolved by the end of the book, so there better be a sequel! 

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about superpowers. Do you think it would be fun to live in a family in which every person had a different power?

  • Why are books, movies, and comics about superheroes so popular? Why do you think both kids and adults are so fascinated by them? 

  • If you could have only one superpower, what would it be and why?

Book details

Author:Marion Jensen
Genre:Humor
Topics:Superheroes, Adventures, Friendship, Great boy role models, High school, Misfits and underdogs
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Harper
Publication date:February 24, 2014
Number of pages:256
Publisher's recommended age(s):8 - 12
Available on:Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle

This review of Almost Super was written by

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Quality

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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