A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Public School Superhero, by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts, offers an insightful glimpse at life at a decrepit inner-city school. Readers will identify with "Grandma's Boy," as protagonist Kenny is known, as he struggles to survive bullies and ultimately finds compassion for some of them. Most of the violence is suggested rather than actual, except for when bullies punch and jab Kenny in the kidney at school, and he's also locked in his locker. Although it's implied that violence and drugs are part of Kenny's hood, it's not explicitly shown. Kenny makes some bad choices, but for the most part, he is a good kid trying to do what's right. Cory Thomas' action-packed cartoons of Kenny's superhero alter ego Stainlezz Steel -- who kicks and punches like a cartoon character and fights dragons and dodges teachers shown as dungeon keepers -- add another appealing dimension to this engaging story. A great read for boys after Wimpy Kid. Kenny's African-American, his best friend is Asian, and they attend a predominantly black school, so Public School Superhero is also a good choice for families looking for books with diverse characters.
What's the story?
Kenny's starting middle school at an inner-city school in Washington, D.C. The teachers are burned out, and there's a constant revolving door of principals. Kenny tries to stay clear of bullies and the enormous eighth graders, but that isn't possible because he likes to read and play chess, which make him a target. He lives with his grandma, whose high standards are often in conflict with his life in school. When the school finally gets a principal who cares and starts to make changes, the school district moves her to another school. The community, led by Kenny's grandma, stages a protest to bring back its principal.
Is it any good?
What could be a run-of-the-mill middle school story takes on a deeper dimension when Kenny is stuck teaching one of the bullies to play chess as a consequence for stealing. During their afternoons together, Kenny gets a glimpse into Ray-Ray's sad life and gains a more mature understanding of why his classmate acts the way he does.
Kenny's grandma is a strong positive influence in his life, along with Principal Yetty; the history of the civil rights movement embodied in these two powerful women. Cory Thomas' action-packed cartoons of Kenny's superhero alter ego Stainlezz Steel provide an insight into the fantasy world of a powerless middle school student.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why books about middle school so popular. What's challenging about that period in a kid's life?
Why might kids lie to their parents? What was Kenny trying to avoid by not telling his grandma about detention?
What ways can kids protest bad things that affect their lives? How can the Internet help kids effect change?
- Authors: James Patterson, Chris Tebbetts
- Illustrator: Cory Thomas
- Genre: Coming of Age
- Topics: Superheroes, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
- Publication date: March 16, 2015
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 304
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: September 25, 2020
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