I first fell in love with Dan Santat when I got the book Oh No! (Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World). His illustrations are absolutely incredible. Then, earlier this summer, I heard that he created his own graphic novel about superhero sidekicks, aptly named Sidekicks. I hastened to the bookstore only to discover it wasn’t out yet. But what’s this? Another new book bearing the title Sidekicks, this one by Jack D. Ferraiolo.
Now, I didn’t know this Jack D. Ferraiolo fellow, yet I opened the flap and discovered that he developed and writes for WordGirl, one of my favorite kids’ shows. I bought his Sidekicks to pass the time until Dan Santat’s book came out, and I’m delighted I did.
This YA book was a pleasant surprise, though I was taken aback by the book’s opening seen. Bright Boy, the well known sidekick to Phantom Justice, isn’t a little kid any more and his too-tight bright yellow supersuit proves it. When he becomes a little too… er… excited saving a woman during a battle with a villain, it’s all over the news and he becomes a laughingstock. I have absolutely no memory of reading about puberty from the male point of view while I was busy reading Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, so this seemed kind of shocking.
But this is hardly just a tale of puberty. Bright Boy, also known as the all-but-invisible Scott at school, discovers the secret identity of his nemesis, Monkeywrench, evil sidekick to Dr. Chaotic. (Spoiler Alert: puberty has affected Monkeywrench, too, and Bright Boy discovers that Monkeywrench has a few more curves than he was expecting, if you know what I’m saying.) Both Bright Boy and Monkeywrench discover that good guys aren’t as good as they seem and that being evil sometimes gets a bad rap. There’s a timely story arc about corporate greed, and it’s up to the sidekicks to discover what’s really going on. The action is exciting enough that I missed my subway stop reading this book.
In July, the wait was over for Dan Santat’s Sidekicks, and it didn’t disappoint. My 6-year-old has been busy reading comic book primers like Captain Underpants, and when I brought it home she gasped a little bit and said, “Is that a COMIC BOOK?” We devoured it in an afternoon. Dan Santat really has a way with character expressions, and the hamster, Fluffy, in particular kept us giggling.
Now, you might think that two girls giggling over a graphic novel means that it doesn’t have mass appeal. Wrong! Here’s the story. [Human] superhero Captain Amazing isn’t the young crime fighter he once was, and he decides to look for a sidekick. His neglected pets, including his dog, hamster, and new chameleon, want the job so that they can spend more time with their beloved owner. While out in the world, costumed and fighting crime, the pets meet up with The Claw, a cat with a special connection to the story.
This is a lovely book about family, which again makes it sound like it’s not the awesome action-packed superhero saga that it is. You can get some quick glances of the awesomeness in the book trailer.
This may not be a very action packed ending but, in the Battle of the Sidekicks, both are winners.