January 10, 2022

Arnold the Super-ish Hero

Written by Heather Tekavec
Illustrated by Guillaume Perreault
Kids Can Press
32 pp.
Ages 4-7

Arnold works in the family business, and that business is one of superheroes. They are superheroes like his super strong cousin and his super fast brother and his super bouncy uncle. But Arnold doesn't have a super power, yet, so, as they all wait for it to show up, Arnold is their phone guy.
From Arnold the Super-ish Hero by Heather Tekavec, illus. by Guillaume Perreault
Then a call comes in for a superhero and no one responds when Arnold sounds the alarm. So, determined to follow the family motto of "Stop the bad guy from being a bad guy," Arnold dusts off his great-grandmother's mask and cape to find the crime. But just getting to the crime scene becomes problematic. As he speeds to the scene, as best he can after taking the bus, he comes across situations he misinterprets. A young man yelling at a woman in a wheelchair is actually a grandson trying to tell his grandmother who has lost her hearing aid to keep her hands off the tires so he can push her safely. Arnold's solution of giving the woman a stray kitten to hold works miracles for the grandson, grandmother and even the kitten. He sees a little girl throwing things in the water until she reveals she's trying to feed a baby duck before the more aggressive adults get the food. Arnold comes to the rescue again. 
From Arnold the Super-ish Hero by Heather Tekavec, illus. by Guillaume Perreault
When Arnold finally gets to the called-in crime scene, he realizes that he can use his phone message-taking skills to good use to solve the problem and make two little girls very happy, with one declaring him a super-ish hero. After a few more good deeds, Arnold returns home to witness his efforts lauded on TV, with his family unaware that the Super Nice Guy superhero was their own family member. And that's a secret he's happy to keep to himself. (Oh, look, another superpower: keeping secrets!)

Kids love the idea of superheroes who can do beyond the norm, usually to fight crime and evil. But, if the past two years have shown us anything, it's that heroes come with all kinds of abilities, and goodness and kindness may be the greatest of all of these. As such, BC's Heather Tekavec has given us a humble character in Arnold, one who just wants to emulate his superhero family, but learns unintentionally that kindness is his strength. Even without trying for the spotlight, just stopping to offer assistance wherever help is needed, Arnold has become a hero. He's every guy and, with him, Heather Tekavec has shown us that anyone can be a hero.
From Arnold the Super-ish Hero by Heather Tekavec, illus. by Guillaume Perreault
Quebec illustrator Guillaume Perreault gives Arnold a banal look that works with the common person image. Except for a top-knot, there's not much to distinguish Arnold from anyone, including the reader. He doesn't stand out except when he does something kind. Guillaume Perreault may make Arnold's family members unique in their dress and skills but he makes Arnold stand out for his originality. In fact, Guillaume Perreault gives the whole book an understated feel with his choice of colours-no emphasis on bold primary colours–and blend of picture book illustrations with graphic novel boxes. Unlike most comic books about superheroes that bombard you with flash and action, Arnold the Super-ish Hero has the same restrained and easygoing appearance as does Arnold himself.

With a message that kindness is a superhero talent available to anyone, even Arnold, young readers will cheer for him and anyone who does good, knowing that the goodness comes in the doing, not from the recognition or the celebrity.

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