The Big Book of Superheroes, by Bart King (Gibbs Smith, April 1, 2014--an excellent publication day for this!)
In a nutshell, this book is 278 pages of superhero fun, full of information on what it takes to be a superhero (stuffed with tidbits of information about the genuine articles), full of activities to help you become one, and generously sprinkled with humor.
Warning: some of the humor is of the potty kind, which strangely appeals less to the grown-up reader. But despite that, I found myself enjoying the book so much that in the middle of my first reading I summoned my younger child to sit next to me on the sofa so that we could enjoy it together, and he was hooked, and it went off to camp with him the next day.
Sure I enjoyed learning about superheroes I'd never heard of (though I really wish the author had reassured me that they were all real. I was so full of doubt when I hit "Squirrel Girl" I had to run upstairs to google search... "her ability to control squirrels is surprisingly effective," says Wikipedia). But what I really loved about this book was that Bart King has a lovely dryish wit to his style, laughing at absurdities while still treating this whole superhero thing and its long history more or less respectfully (and I love that there's a generous bibliography, including secondary sources, included).
Two more good things:
--It is friendly to both girls and boys--superhero-ness doesn't default to boy-ness, and look at that pink-haired girl on the cover! There is also room for kids of color to see themselves--the boy on the cover can be read as African American or Hispanic (kids in the interior illustrations, though drawn in black and white, also don't necessarily default to white).
--The generous inclusion of black and white comics, and the short text blocks make this a friendly one for the text-uncertain.
Just to give you a taste of the book, here's how it starts:
"I have good news. By reading these words, you just became an honorary superhero. Yay!
But maybe you're wondering, "What is a superhero, anyway?" It's simple- a superhero is anyone who wants to fight evildoers and right wrongs. These could be small wrongs, like:
"Who used up all the toilet paper?"
Or it might be a big wrong, like:
"Who used up all of the toilet paper in the Secret Lair?"
Of course, you can do things your way. Instead of fighting evildoers, you might want to argue with them. (I'm pretty sure this isn't as successful, though.)" (page 9)
(I love italics.)
Short answer: it's great. But even better than giving this one to your own child might be to give it to someone else's child. That way you don't have to worry about the squirting toilet prank...
disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher