Almost Super by Marion Jensen

“It’s not your power that makes you super. It’s what you do with that power.”

All of the Baileys receive their very own superpower on February 29th at 4:23 in the afternoon in the first leap year after their twelfth birthday. So now it’s time for Rafter Bailey, age thirteen, and his brother, Benny, age twelve to get their powers. It should be the best day of their young lives, but superpowers are unpredictable and Rafter and Benny are in for a big surprise.

This humorous look at a family of superheroes has great dialog, and is kid-friendly and funny, without descending to the stupid and crude boy-humor that some authors attempt (at least not much, just a little bit of burping and barfing). It made me laugh, and it had a good superhero moral: “Iron resolve. Ferocious courage. And a healthy dose of insanity. That’s what makes a superhero. Not some amazing power.”

Rafter and Benny act like kids, but they’re kids who are out to save the world. They mess up, but their hearts are in the right place. And as kids are apt to do, they sometimes see things more clearly than the grown-ups do. When some doubt arises as to whether the Baileys’ arch-rivals, the Johnsons, are really super-villains, Rafter and Benny decide to find out the truth once and for all.

As I wrote in my review of another middle grade superhero novel (Sidekicked by John David Anderson), superheroes, from Gilgamesh and Enkidu to Samson and Gideon to Hercules to Beowulf to Superman and The Incredible Hulk—–we weak mortals have always been fascinated with the adventures and exploits of men (sometimes women) with incredible talents, beyond human strength, and extraordinary intelligence. Superheroes are the stuff of legend and comic book—and nowadays middle grade speculative fiction. The superhero novel is in style, and as far as I’m concerned, Almost Super is one “super” entry in the genre.

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