A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Cape is the first book in The League of Secret Heroes, a new series by author Kate Hannigan featuring three tween girls in Philadelphia during World War II who love solving math puzzles, codes, and ciphers -- and who suddenly find themselves able to transform into superheroes with superpowers. That's a lucky thing, because a supervillain known as the Hisser, who transforms into a giant rattlesnake, is trying to do a lot of damage and steal technology for Hitler. In words and comics-panel illustrations, there's a lot of violence -- some cartoonish, like vaporized superhero combatants, and some very real, like dangers to family members, some of whom are killed in the war. There are strong messages of inclusion and avoiding stereotypes, as our heroes are a recent immigrant from Ireland, a Black girl whose grandmother is a librarian, and a Japanese American girl whose family was forced from their San Francisco home and imprisoned in a camp. And, for example, not all German characters are Nazis. The women "computers" who were instrumental in building the first electronic computer are important to the story. Determination, courage, love of friends and family, and devotion to the examples of '40s-era superheroes help the girls and their allies as they battle overwhelming evil, and also neighborhood bullies. There's a lot to like about where this series seems to be going: history, girl power, loads of positive messages, and lots of fun.
What's the story?
As CAPE opens, World War II is on, narrator/protagonist Josie O'Malley's father is fighting in the Pacific, and Josie has a part-time job before and after school to help make ends meet. Also living with the O'Malleys is Josie's older cousin Kay, who's very good at math and whose job helps the family -- all recent immigrants from Ireland who only spoke Gaelic when they arrived. Josie shares Kay's love for math and, as the story opens, is about to ditch the last day of school to take part in a puzzle solving contest. She's angry when Mr. Hissler, the examiner, doesn't even look at her test results or those of the other girl test-takers, but seems awfully interested in her male BFF Emmett, who also did well. It's yet another wrong some superhero should be righting, but superheroes have been absent from Philadelphia for some years now, and no one seems to know why, or even remember that they existed. But before too long, as Josie makes friends with her fellow puzzle-solving, superhero-loving contestants Mae and Akiko and the three find themselves recruited by the mysterious Mrs. Boudica, that's about to change. Which is also good, because Emmett has disappeared, and they're pretty sure Mr. Hissler has something to do with it.
Is it any good?
Author Kate Hannigan's lively words and illustrator Patrick Spaziante's even livelier comic book pages combine to deliver a tale of tween superheroes rising to the challenges of World War II. Whether they're coping with day-to-day evils like neighborhood bullies, discrimination, or their families being in concentration camps, or deploying their powers against Nazis and supervillains, there's lots to like about Josie, Mae, and Akiko, the mysterious Mrs. Boudica, and her little dog, Astra, in this lively, heart-filled tale, and lots to look forward to as the series unfolds. As one of the people they rescue (unaware that Josie's actually one of his rescuers) exclaims:
"I wish my friend Josie were here to see this! She doesn't shut up about superheroes! Josie's never going to believe me when I tell her that some kids saved us.
"And not just any kids. Girls!"
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about superheroes and why we love stories about them, like Cape: The League of Secret Heroes, Book 1. Do you have any favorite superheroes? What do you like about them?
Do you like the way Cape tells part of its story in words and part in comic book pages? Would you like it more if it were all one or the other?
If you and your friends were a league of superheroes, what would your powers be, and how would you use them?
- Author: Kate Hannigan
- Illustrator: Patrick Spaziante
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Superheroes, Adventures, Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Great Girl Role Models, History
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Aladdin
- Publication date: August 6, 2019
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 336
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: September 13, 2021
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