Dylan the Villain

Book review by
Jan Carr, Common Sense Media
Dylan the Villain Book Poster Image
Clever, smart, diabolically fun story of kid supervillain.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Dylan and the other kids are shown building robots, modeling engineering and robotics.

Positive Messages

With supervillains, the positive messages aren't the usual "let's all get along" ones. But these kids are hardworking, goal-oriented, and focused, pushing the boundaries of who and what they can be. And the strong female character sends a meaningful message about girl power.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Though the kids are villains in training and their competition gets (humorously) out of hand, the characters model lots of transferrable positive traits. They set goals and work to accomplish them, focus on school projects, develop their strengths, build robots. Also, there's a strong girl role model; the girl, pictured in confident power poses, is the one to beat and excels at inventing and robotics.

Violence & Scariness

There's cartoon violence: Dylan gets rid of his rival by blasting her into space, and the kids are training in school for dastardly deeds. The robots they build for the contest have weapons -- an astro-plasm cannon, laser eyes -- and two kids in the class are zapped by the freeze ray and shrink ray when Addison tests out her robot's weapons.


What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Dylan the Villain, by K.G. Campbell (illustrator of Newbery winner Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures), is a great picture book choice for fans of The Incredibles and other smart, fun stories about totally relatable kids and families who just happen to be superheroes -- or, in this case, supervillains. Little Dylan is born to "normal" parents who support and cheer on the supervillain traits he excels at, but at school he's outmatched by a girl who's every bit as conniving and who builds a much better robot. If the story upholds villainy -- Dylan eliminates his rival by blasting her into space -- it's cartoon villainy, all in good fun and hilariously silly. And there's lots of value in the girl being the one to beat. She's the best inventor and engineer and doesn't shy away from competition.

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What's the story?

In DYLAN THE VILLAIN, Mr. and Mrs. Snivel are surprised to give birth to a baby with a purple bandit mask barely disguising the villainous glint in his eye. But like all good parents, they're game and super-supportive of their little supervillain, praising his costumes, supervillain laugh, and supervillain inventions. He's the apple of their eye, even if the apple is rotten to the core. Dylan agrees with them that he's "the cleverest super-villain in the whole wide world," so he's surprised when he goes off to school and meets Addison Van Malice, a classmate who bests him at every villainous turn. When the teacher announces a diabolical robot contest, Dylan manages to win the trophy but only because he accidentally-on-purpose blasts Addison and her (much better) robot into space. Bwa-ha-ha! But when he breaks out in an allergic reaction, we see that Allison is responsible, and the book ends on a cliffhanger -- is she plotting her next move?

Is it any good?

A rollicking fun story to tickle the inner villain who resides in us all, this book about a little supervillain getting good at his game is chock-full of humor in the very clever art and text. Readers will root for young Dylan as, in the pursuit of villainy, he makes household messes rivaling ones every kid makes and deals with, and they'll relate to the school rivalries. They'll also laugh at his parents, doting but dumbfounded as his supervillain invention leaves them literally in the dust. The story offers well-behaved kids a safe outlet to enjoy the fantasy of acting out. Since the villainy is silly and cartoony, they probably won't grow up plotting world domination.

Both the main little villains are white, but there are other little villains of color, and it's the girls who come out on top in this story, since supervillain Addison Van Malice is top in her class and constructs the biggest, baddest, most diabolical robot of all. Dylan just can't get ahead of her, even when he blasts her and her robot into space. There's so much humor in both the story and art that this book will continue to serve up pleasure over multiple readings.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about real villains vs. funny villains. What is a villain? How do you know these villains are supposed to be funny? What clues can you find in the text? How many funny things do you notice in the art?

  • Do you have a rivalry with a friend or sibling? Do you ever feel like blasting them into space? What are some different ways of dealing with feelings of competition?

  • How is Dylan's family like regular families? How is it different?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love superheroes

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