It’s not often that superhero books are more than light entertainment. I’ll be honest in that I was pleasantly surprised that the Spidey Amazing Friends series of books that I read with my grandson had life lessons in addition to the entertainment value. He’s almost five, and he loves superheroes, so when he saw the Marvel board book and early readers on my coffee table, he excitedly asked me to read them to him. We now read them each time he comes to visit.
The board book, “Meet the Spidey Team,” is simple, with a plot that is easy to follow for young readers. We meet Spidey, Ghost-Spider, and Miles. We also meet bad guy Rhino, who is stealing from the ice cream truck. But when they try to stop Rhino, other bad guys, Green Goblin and Doc Ock, join in. So the Spidey team needs help! Other superheroes come to save the day. And we meet Black Panther, Ms. Marvel and Hulk. And, of course, the good guys save the day. For very young readers, this might be their first introduction to Marvel superheroes. A great lesson in this little story is that we often can’t accomplish things alone, and it’s okay to ask for help and to rely on our friends for assistance. Ask children to share a time when they needed help doing something. Or have them share an example of a time when they might need help.
In “Super Hero Hiccups,” Miles has hiccups, and they cause him to make mistakes. In this very early reader, kids will learn that making mistakes is something that happens even to superheroes, and we can overcome them. When Green Goblin tries to steal the Pumpkin King’s Power Sword, Spidey and his team need to stop them. But Miles has hiccups! It affects his ability to “thwip” a web. Green Goblin gets away. Miles is sad because he thinks it’s his fault that Green Goblin got away. Spidey tells him, “When a plan doesn’t go my way, I just try something else to save the day!” My grandson pointed out that it’s a rhyme, which is not only true, but shows he’s very perceptive — just like Spidey is when he reassures Miles that he will still be able to help. And, in fact, when his teammates need assistance, instead of trying to thwip a web, Miles uses his invisibility power, and by using teamwork, they save the day. The moral of this story is that if you can’t accomplish something one way, there might be another way to get it done. Be creative, be flexible. Listen to your friends and encourage each other. We all make mistakes. It’s how we get past them that matters. All wonderful lessons for young readers.
“Spidey and his Amazing Friends: Panther Patience” is a book about another nefarious plot, this time by Doc Ock, to steal Black Panther’s powerful Vibranium. The story begins as Peter Parker and his Aunt May are visiting a museum where Black Panther will be exhibiting some Vibranium. On the way to the exhibit, Aunt May stops to look at souvenirs. She buys a squeaky toy that looks like Vibranium. (“Hmmm”, astute parents or teachers might comment at this point. “I wonder if that is going to be important in this story. Usually, when authors include events like Aunt May buying this toy, it will be important later on. Remember this and let’s see if our prediction is correct.”) On their way into the museum, Peter doesn’t look where he is going and runs into the cutout of Black Panther. Aunt May tells him to slow down and have patience so that he doesn’t make mistakes. The word patience is in an orange bold font, to point out that it’s important. When Black Panther appears and is explaining about Vibranium to the audience, Doc Ock comes in and steals the Vibranium. Peter leaves and turns into Spidey. But as he’s trying to help Black Panther fight Doc Ock, his impatience causes him to make mistakes. Finally, Peter figures out how to trap Doc Ock, and he’s also learned the importance of having patience. We can hope that the readers, too, learn something from this cute little story. Making predictions, noticing events that might be important (the squeaky cat toy Vibranium is important), and reading critically all help good readers make sense of literature. Even books about superheroes. And as an additional bonus, this little book has stickers that kids will love to play with.
Please note: This review is based on the final books provided by Disney Books for review purposes.