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Terrific page-turner has it all: action, humor, and heart.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Michael's dad values education highly and homeschools his smart son. Professor Edson is fond of quoting Emily Dickinson, Einstein, Oscar Wilde, and others.


Positive messages

The difference between good and evil is rarely crystal-clear, and even those with a skewed moral compass can have admirable qualities. What's black, white, or a shade of gray is a matter of perspective, evident in the ways Michael, his father, the mobsters, the Dictator, Viola, and even the Comet regard the same situation. 


Positive role models

Michael uses his hypnotic power to his own benefit, but he refuses to deploy it against people close to him. Similarly, Professor Edson makes use of Michael's talent but goes to great lengths to try to keep him safe. Their close relationship is built on loyalty and mutual admiration. Edson makes some lousy choices as a father, but his heart's in the right place. 

Violence & scariness

There's a lot of violence that's appropriate for the genre. Michael spends time in the company of mobsters and goons and reluctantly participates in a gangster meeting that goes terribly wrong. There are several action-packed scenes of peril and violence, including robberies and shootouts. Michael and his father try to avoid getting embroiled in violence themselves. Michael shoots and injures a friend trying to keep him out of the action.


There are some minor tween insults using the words "jerk," "piss," and "turd-faced."


Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that John David's Minion is rooted in a comic book world of villains, gangsters, thugs, goons, and a superhero, and most of the bad guys have redeeming qualities. It's as much about the tender relationship between a father and son as it is about villains and heroes. There are several scenes with gunfire, explosions, and fighting. The novel explores thought-provoking questions of personal responsibility, intent, and harm. Michael has little respect for religious views, a byproduct of his upbringing by nuns. The story is set in the same world as David's earlier book, Sidekicked, but it has different characters and isn't directly related to the first book.

What's the story?

Abandoned as a baby, Michael Marion Magdalene Morn was raised by nuns who had no idea he could control their minds. But the odd, brilliant man who adopted him did, and by age 12 Michael was helping his geeky dad rob banks to pay the bills and buy supplies for mysterious contraptions. Michael knows he and his father are involved with shady characters, but overall they lead a peaceful, comfortable life -- until a dangerous new breed of criminals appears on the scene, with a spectacular new superhero to match. The Comet's heroics are worrisome enough, but the new villains terrify Michael. As fear grips the city, he and his dad need to decide what role they'll play in this new world order.

Is it any good?


MINION is a little less goofy than Sidekicked, but the very fact that it's more grounded makes it a more affecting read. Minion takes place in the same world as Sidekicked, author John David's excellent novel about an aspiring superhero sidekick, but with a bizarro spin: This time, we're cheering for the bad guys. But how bad are they, really? Michael says his father is more of a mad scientist than an evil genius, a distinction that sets the stage for fascinating conversations about morality, loyalty, personal responsibility, and where people draw the line between good and evil.

Anderson again populates his comic book world with complex, nuanced characters. The relationship between Michael and his adoptive dad is especially touching. It's a satisfying action/adventure that hits sweet notes of melancholy, humor, and hope. 

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about whether Michael and his father are genuine villains. How responsible are they for what happens? How important is intent versus consequences?

  • Why do you think superhero stories are so popular and enduring?

  • How does it feel as a reader to root for villains instead of heroes?  

Book details

Author:John David Anderson
Topics:Superheroes, Adventures, Great boy role models, Misfits and underdogs
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Walden Pond Press
Publication date:June 24, 2014
Number of pages:288
Publisher's recommended age(s):8 - 12
Available on:Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle

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