Thursday, December 6, 2012

Easy Reader Radar: Wedgieman: A Hero is Born by Charise Mericle Harper (Cybils Nominee)

Wedgieman: A Hero is Born. by Charise Mericle Harper, illustrated by Bob Shea. August 7, 2012. 48 pages. ISBN: 9780375970580

Wedgieman: A Hero is Born is a level 3 easy reader from Random House’s Step into Reading series. (In this series, Level 3 is for readers who can read independently, and the back of the book promises engaging characters, easy-to-follow plots, and popular topics.) Though the title suggests comparisons to the Captain Underpants series, I am happy to report that Wedgieman is somewhat less gross than the famed chapter book hero. In fact, Wedgieman starts out as Veggiebaby, then Veggieboy, and finally Veggieman, a superhero who wants to help kids eat their vegetables and stay healthy. (I like to think of him as Captain Vegetable for the 21st Century.) Wedgieman only gets his new underwear-inspired nickname after a mix-up with the letter on his uniform and a run-in with some kids who are fond of toilet humor.

While I don’t necessarily think the plot of this book is the most original thing in the world, I have to say that the telling of the story and the artwork really stand out from other easy readers. Charise Mericle Harper’s sense of humor is perfect for early elementary school students, and Bob Shea’s illustrations give the book the cartoonish feel it needs to draw in superhero fans. Harper makes great use of alliteration early in the book when she describes the shapes Veggiebaby can build out of his food (broccoli bears, spinach spiders, etc.) and again when she talks about the mess Veggiebaby makes while eating (peas in his pants, cabbage on the cat, etc.) Though the story doesn’t give a lot of room for description, Harper works in a few great lines showing, rather than telling us, about things like Veggieboy’s strength. “He held a bus full of chattering grandmas high in the air” is just about the best sentence I can imagine to convey a superhero’s super abilities.

The underwear humor in the second half of the book isn’t my cup of tea, but I know a lot of kids - both boys and girls - who are in that stage right now who will laugh themselves silly when they read this book. I also think there is something appealing about a bumbling superhero character who isn’t as smart or as savvy as the kids around him. That kind of humor works well for this age group, even if I do think the kids’ gossiping and name-calling is a bit mean-spirited.

All in all, Wedgieman is a promising new series sure to appeal to fans of other funny easy reader series like Fly Guy, George and Martha, and Elephant and Piggie as well as to readers who enjoy the Super Friends and other Marvel and DC comics easy readers.

I borrowed Wedgieman: A Hero is Born from my local public library. 

For more about this book, visit Goodreads and Worldcat. 

NOTE: This book was nominated by LoriA for the 2012 Cybils Awards in the Easy Reader/Early Chapter Book category. I am a first-round panelist in this category, but this review reflects my opinions only, not those of any other panelist, or the panel as a whole. Thanks!

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