Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man by Michael Chabon

The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man by Michael Chabon, illustrated by Jake Parker

Rating: 2 stars

This book just couldn't commit.

It has one superhero boot-clad foot on the side of the sweeter stories with flying, masked men who are actually cute kids.  They do good deeds as their capes swirl around them.  The superhero--Awesome Man--in this story is totally imaginary--all adventures in the book are completely in his head.  But it also has one superhero boot-clad foot in the traditional, violent stories where these same masked men hit their enemies, throw things, destroy vehicles.  All of this is done while wearing what we call in our house a "mean face."

The story, too, is all over the place.  Despite all of the sentences on each and every page, we really don't get to know the hero at all.  The story line is jumbled up and we get bits and pieces of where he comes from and what he does while he bashes this and bruises that.  There are a bunch of enemies; too many to really understand one or two very well.  We don't realize that he's a boy until the end (that's his astonishing secret), when he throws a "power grip"--also known as a hug--around his mom.  For that reason, we don't get good part of the traditional superhero story: A normal kid, probably unpopular in one way or another, transforms into a hero and helps the very people who belittle him when he's normal.  

Lorelei and Ben think the pictures are pretty cool--disturbingly, the one where Awesome Man shoots positronic rays out of his eyeballs in order to decapitate a giant killer robot is one of their favorites.  I think this is my first "what's cool is not good" lesson...not that I really spilled all these thoughts to them, but...  I'm guessing this won't be my last lesson in this genre.  I have those teenage years to look forward to!

I don't think the author thought about his audience while writing this book.  The language requires kids to be pretty old for this book, but I can't imagine a kid older than 6 wanting to read it.  Lorelei, 5, who really has a wide range of facts in her little brain, is left confused about what "postitronic rays" are, and then here I am explaining "arch nemesis" and "force shield," too...  So this is a book for Ben's age?  I don't think so...

We'll be taking this book back to the library today...won't miss it at all!

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