Monday, 20 July 2015

Superkid by Claire Freedman and illustrated by Sarah McIntyre

Superkid is a superhero story with a twist. In Claire Freedman's tale, the superhero is there to save children from their everyday troubles: the bully at school, eating healthy vegetables and room tidying, as well as the extraordinary: pirates that make you walk the plank. What makes this superhero special is the fact that he or she is most probably the reader's friend!

The story is told through a series of humorous incidents where Superkid saves the day. The story could be enjoyed simply as a 'read aloud' text to promote a love of books in foundation stage and Key Stage 1. However, it also has the potential for developing children's understanding of character. Although Superkid is quite likely to be a classmate, he also possesses the powers you would expect of a superhero: changing into his superhero costume in an instant, x-ray eyes, flying, making things disappear, putting things in order, rescuing people from evil monsters. 

Like Sue Hendra's Supertato, Superkid utilises some of the features you would expect to see in comic strips, in particular onomatopoeia, e.g. Zapp, whoosh and puff. Sarah McKintyre's illustrations take this one step further. You will find examples of the zig zag frame to indicate something happening quickly, lines after a character to indicate movement, the action of the story told through a sequence of brightly coloured frames. Her illustrations also provide the opportunity to examine how different facial expressions indicate different thoughts and emotions: shock, surprise, fear, relief, delight.

The end papers also merit comment. At the beginning of the book, you have a wordless text which tells the story of a superhero through comic strip frames which again use a number of conventions associated with comics. As such, this provides the opportunity to explore and discuss these features with children before creating their own comic using an application such as comic life. The papers at the end of the story are annotated character portraits: a possible stimulus for work in class.

As you would expect from Claire Freedman, the text is presented as a rhyming story. It is fun and fast paced and could be decoded by children who are working at phase 5 or beyond.

Publisher: Scholastic
Date of Publication: 2013
ISBN: 978-1-407124-06-3


Monday, 13 July 2015

Supertato by Sue Hendra

Sue Hendra's Supertato is a quirky take on the standard superhero tale. It's set in the vegetable section of a supermarket, not a child's first choice of where to find a hero of any sort, usually. The hero of this story is a rather rotund potato! Nevertheless, he has all the characteristics you would expect of a superhero. The evil villain is the smallest character in the book, the pea. 
This is a pacey read. The style of the writing includes a number of authorial questions to engage readers. The simple plot moves swiftly along through the use of dialogue which will appeal to young children. The story is delightfully silly. The narrative coupled with the dialogue has all the features you would expect in a comic superhero tale: slapstick, good versus evil, mild peril and the inevitable happy ending.
Alliteration is used for comic effect to describe how Supertato stealthily creeps up on the mischievous pea. 'Crept through the cakes'.....'checked the cheese'. There is also an element of comic strip writing with features such as 'kerpow!' Children will love rewriting this as a comic strip using an application such as comic life. This could be used to emphasise the words within the speech marks or develop the use of temporal connectives (adverbials).
Other writing activities might include wanted posters, newspaper reports or play scripts.
The illustrations help the story along enormously. Supertato is depicted as a typical superhero, with his super belt around his rather plump middle, his bandit-like eye mask and his superhero red cape. Evil pea's eyes look demonic at the beginning of the story. The facial features of all the characters are full of emotion, ranging from horror, surprise, shock to the twinkle of Supertato's teeth to illustrate just how good he is. The pictures are bright, with lots of primary colours and plenty to see on each page. This would be really fun 'read aloud' to a group of children in foundation stage or Key Stage 1. It would also make an ideal book to read as part of any project on Superheroes or healthy eating.

Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Date of Publication: 2014
ISBN: 978-0-85707-447-8