Book: Super Fly: The World's Smallest Superhero!
Author: Todd H. Doodler
Age Range: 7-10
Todd Doodler is the author of one of my daughter's favorite (once upon a time) board books: Animal Soup. We also enjoyed his more recent board book The Bus Driver. He has written and illustrated numerous other titles for the youngest of readers. Super Fly: The World's Smallest Superhero! seems to be his first chapter book, and I was intrigued to read it.
Super Fly is a heavily illustrated early chapter book with plenty of white space and a breezy, over-the-top attitude, perfect for newer readers. Eugene Flystein is a somewhat geeky young fly who prefers reading and inventing to typical fly activities (like, oh, flying). When Eugene starts a new school in fourth grade, he finds himself the target of a bullying Crazy Cockroach. Fortunately, he also finds a best friend in Fred Flea. Well, a "pest friend", anyway.
When one of Eugene's inventions goes awry, giving Crazy Cockroach increased strength and intelligence, there's only one thing to do - Eugene has to test out the invention himself, becoming Super Fly. What follows is a comic book style adventure (albeit mainly in prose) in which Super Fly, after overcoming some hurdles, and helped by Fred Flea, saves the day.
Several things make Super Fly kid-friendly:
- A classic "underdog becoming a hero" storyline.
- Disgusting, insect-specific details, like the school being "a brown pile of yuck floating in a broken toilet in the center of town" and Super Fly being paralyzed by an excess of smell from flowers. Or the invention of the "Poop-A-Rama", which makes "everyday objects smell like, well,you know."(Page 2)
- Gentle spoofing of superhero stories. For example, when Fred Flea becomes Super Fly's sidekick, he starts talking like this: "Sweet chipmunk coffee-covered corn cobs, Super Fly!". Eugene's town is called Stinkopolis.
- Clear, amusing, comic book-like illustrations on nearly every page.
Super Fly also has hints of humor for parents reading with their kids, like the fact that the bully calls Eugene "McFly" (shades of Back to the Future). The marching band for the high school plays "We Are the Champ Bugs" by Queen Bee (Page 104). And so on.
Despite this humor, Super Fly wasn't quite my personal cup of tea. (The Poop-A-Rama got things off to a bad start for me.) But I think that seven year old kids will find it hilarious. Unlike in the Fly Guy stories by Tedd Arnold, in which Fly Guy basically lives in the human world, Doodler has created a whole sub-culture for insects, who live beneath the notice of humans. There are flea circuses and parades, houses and gym class.
I felt like Super Fly could have been written as a full graphic novel - the story has a similar feel, and I think that Doodler would have been up to creating more illustrations. The fact that it's a chapter book instead makes Super Fly an excellent bridge book for kids who have the reading skills for early chapter books, but may be lacking in interest. Give this to kids who have devoured the Squish or Lunch Lady books, and watch them eat up Super Fly, too. Super Fly would also make a nice, humorous summer reading title for older elementary school kids looking for something different.
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's Books (@BWKids)
Publication Date: May 5, 2015
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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