A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Brief facts about meteors, the Roman god Jupiter, and the star Sirius. Ways in which building on top of past civilizations affects modern life.
The secret ingredient of life is a good heart. Fights aren't always physical; sometimes you have to fight to keep being good. You have to live with what you've done, even if no one else knows about it. People want to believe in heroes and that good things happen: "The bravest thing is to be a true friend."
Positive Role Models
Leo, who's 11, wants others to think highly of him and so does things he knows are wrong to gain acceptance into a group. He feels remorse and shame but at first perpetuates others' wrong impression of events. He tires of living a lie, and that eventually gives him the courage to set things right. Leo's classmate Warren is a bad influence headed down the wrong path, but he takes an opportunity Leo offers him to turn things around. Leo's parents are strong models of responsibility and caring both for the family and the community. His sisters are sometimes mean or pesky but are loyal to the family and help Leo when the chips are down.
Violence & Scariness
Imaginary swordplay describes gladiator-style combat without gore. A dog is injured by a mean boy on a bike, but it's not clear if it was deliberate. Blood from an injury trickles and drips. A beloved pet dog is lost in a random disaster when a huge sinkhole opens in a busy town center. Leo's in danger of being buried alive by a collapsing building and later, in the sinkhole, makes his way through the scary, dark underground.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Hero is a dog-lover's story by Sarah Lean, the author of A Hundred Horses. Here Lean explores the human-animal bond through the relationship between 11-year-old Leo and his neighbor's dog, Jack Pepper, with lessons about honesty, true friendship, loyalty, and what it means to be a real hero. There's nothing of concern for bigger kids and tweens, but younger readers may be frightened by the random appearance of a sinkhole in the middle of town that collapses buildings. No one's injured, but Jack Pepper is lost, feared trapped in the bottom of the sinkhole and possibly dead. Younger kids may need extra reassurance that they're not in danger of falling into a sinkhole as they go about their daily lives.
Is It Any Good?
HERO starts out slowly, with frequent repetition of Leo's desire to be, well, a hero, becoming a bit heavy-handed. It also takes a while to create a real sense of place with the confusing use of U.S. vocabulary such as "trash can" in what has to be a small town somewhere in Europe. Things pick up considerably when Jack Pepper appears, and eventually author Sarah Lean displays a more authentic ear for dialogue. These flaws are unlikely to bother kids and tweens, though, especially dog lovers. The final third builds nicely, and the pages will keep turning.
The happy ending shows kids what real friendship is and that growing up takes different kinds of heroism, not only bravery in battle.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.