8th Grade Superzero by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich

Reggie is an 8th grader who wants nothing more than to fly under the radar. On the first day of school, he lost his breakfast in front of the entire student body and earned himself the nickname “Pukey.” (I won’t tell you the details, because the book doesn’t give them to you up front, either.) He’s got pressures at home, too: his dad is unemployed and he and his sister have a difficult relationships on the best of days. Two bright spots in his life are his youth leader at church, a man who asks and allows big questions, and the comic that he and his friend Joe C. have created. It’s about a superhero named Night Man, who masquerades as a homeless man by day. Through some of his work with the youth group and a kindergarten “buddy” at his school, Reggie begins to work with a homeless shelter and confronts the reality of homelessness. As he begins to face these issues, he questions where God is in all this suffering and he starts to wonder if flying under the radar is enough, or if he should, despite his tenuous social status, stand up for people who need his help.

I loved, loved, loved this book. I will admit that it was a little bit slow in the middle and I wished that it had been more of a page turner. But I still loved it. I loved Reggie. I loved his best girl friend Ruthie. I loved his little buddy Charlie. My favorite scene (besides the last page, which I also loved) was one in the middle featuring Reggie, Charlie, and some Dora the Explorer sneakers. While the way I have described it makes it sound like a typical problem novel, it is so much more, filled with smart characters, thoughtful treatments of religion, homelessness, and unemployment, and a wonderfully middle-school sense of humor. One thing to note is that Reggie is Jamaican and most of his friends and community are not white. The challenges that he and his friends face because of their skin color are handled in an honest, realistic way but are only one part of the story. (One tiny complaint is that I wish that Reggie was featured more prominently on the cover, because my middle grade students are hungry for more non-white protagonists.) Did I mention that I loved this book? Because I really, really did. I can’t think of what to compare it to, exactly, but I know it’s the kind of story that will stay with me (I’ve already told about ten people about the Dora the Explorer bit) and one that I will be handing to students who, like Reggie, wonder what it really means to be a superhero.

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  1. […] friend, Kari, reviewed 8th Grade Superzero and gave it such glowing praise that I couldn’t resist.  This is not a book I would normally […]

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