When I was a kid I seem to remember the one thing I really disliked was when you read a story and just knew, all the way through, that there was a moral to it. You know, the kind of story where the message (usually something that you thought was a bit soppy or daft) was more important than a good plot? I can recall stories I read at my aunt and uncle’s house, probably in some church magazines, where awful things happened to children who cycled in bare feet – I only liked them because something awful happened to the rather daft shoeless kid and I was a bloodthirsty little thing. I certainly wouldn’t want to read them again, talk about them with my friends or even tell my teachers about them – none of the things that make children love books.
And this is what I loved the most about Phil Earle’s Superhero Street – the fact that the most important thing is that it is a cracking good story. Young Michael (known as Mouse) lives with his parents and five younger brothers (twins and triplets) and wants to be a superhero. When his father disappears and two desperate jewel thieves cross his path he gets his chance. There is an awful lot of just the right kind of sillyness (fart jokes, daft nicknames and the like), some wonderfully disgusting descriptions of nappies and an exceedingly wicked baddie.
As an adult I can also appreciate the fact that there is an underlying message – about who can be a hero and what heroism looks like – but for a child this would just be part of the overall package. The fact that a large part of this message is that kids who act as unseen carers, and overworked (and suddenly single) parents, are often the true heroes will, hopefully, mean a lot to children who are in that position. As Mouse points out all any youngster wants is ‘to be seen, and seen as special’.