Subscribe to The Horn Book

Readers, assemble!

It’s hard to miss the excitement (and spoilers — eek!) about Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame, released in theaters on April 26th. This latest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe concludes what the company refers to as Phase 3 of the Infinity Saga and wraps up many favorite story lines from the 22 films released so far. So even if you’re not a fan, you probably know someone young — or young-at-heart — who is, and we hope you’ll share with them this list of recommended books about superheroes (including Marvel, DC, and original characters) and fandom to tide them over until Phase 4 begins. All titles were recommended by The Horn Book Magazine and The Horn Book Guide at the time of their publication; reviews are reprinted from Horn Book Guide Online.

 

Marvel characters

Angleberger, Tom  Rocket and Groot: Stranded on Planet Strip Mall!
Gr. 4–6    224 pp.     Disney/Marvel     2016
Trade ISBN 978-1-4847-1452-2

Rocket and Groot (from the Guardians of the Galaxy comic and movie franchises) crash-land on a planet full of killer strip malls and must escape with the aid of their intelligent tape dispenser, Veronica. Told through Captain’s Log transcripted dialogue (each character’s in a different typeface) and illustrated with wacky rudimentary cartoons, the story tones down the original (foul-mouthed in Rocket’s case) characters for a silly romp. The pair returns in Rocket and Groot: Keep on Truckin‘.

Deneen, Brendan  Night Night, Groot
PS     32 pp.     Disney/Marvel     2017
Trade ISBN 978-1-4847-3282-3

Illustrated by Cale Atkinson. Rocket Raccoon postpones tree-like alien Groot’s bedtime for more space adventures alongside fellow Marvel superheroes. A tranquil rhyming text faces the action-packed, cartoonish illustrations. Including cameos for Marvel enthusiasts while presenting the violence in a kid-friendly manner (e.g., a high-tech slingshot stands in for Rocket’s signature firearms), this energetic if gimmicky book should charm young superhero fans.

Hale, Shannon and Hale, Dean  The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World
Gr. 4–6     325 pp.     Disney/Marvel     2017
Trade ISBN 978-1-4847-8154-8

Fourteen-year-old Doreen Green, half-girl, half-squirrel, uses her squirrel powers to save her New Jersey neighborhood from her arch-nemesis in this origin story to the comic books. The focus shifts among Doreen, squirrel Tippy-Toe, and Doreen’s deaf bestie Ana Sofía; throughout, Doreen adds first-person footnotes that are humorous but also interrupt the story’s flow. Comical text-message interludes with other Marvel characters are a welcome bonus. Look for sequel The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: 2 Fuzzy, 2 Furious.

Smith, Ronald L.  Black Panther: The Young Prince
Gr. 4–6     264 pp.     Disney/Marvel     2018
Trade ISBN 978-1-4847-8764-9
Ebook ISBN 978-1-368-01222-5

In this origin story, future Black Panther T’Challa is twelve and attending middle school in Chicago while his father the king deals with a hostile invasion of Wakanda. From this unlikely premise Smith weaves a taut and nuanced tale as T’Challa must keep his identity secret, negotiate a new culture, make friends, and uncover and foil the scheme of a dangerous dark-magic cult.

Reynolds, Jason  Miles Morales: Spider-Man
YA     263 pp.     Disney/Marvel    2017
Trade ISBN 978-1-4847-8748-9
Ebook ISBN 978-1-368-00137-3

Sixteen-year-old Black and Puerto Rican Miles Morales is Spider-Man. He discovers that the history teacher at his prestigious Brooklyn academy is part of a white supremacist organization led by a centuries-old villain. The novel has its fair share of action adventure, but it’s also an expertly spun tale of identity as Miles finds purpose and resolve. Based on a 2011 Marvel comic.

Stohl, Margaret  Black Widow: Forever Red
YA     406 pp.     Disney/Marvel     2015
Trade ISBN 978-1-4847-2643-3

When former assassin Natasha Romanoff — a.k.a. Black Widow, agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. — learns of a rash of international missing children, she suspects her former teacher and tormentor, Ivan Somodorov, is involved. But in order to catch Ivan, she must delve into a past she’s tried to forget. The high-octane plot is fueled by the snappy dialogue typical of comic-book-based characters. Look for sequel Black Widow: Red Vengeance.

Zub, Jim  Avengers vs. Ultron vols. 1–6
Gr. 4–6     32 pp.     ABDO/Spotlight     2016
Library binding ISBN 978-1-61479-568-1

Illustrated by Woo Bin Choi. Marvel: Avengers K series. This graphic novel series revolves around Hank Pym, a.k.a. Ant-Man, as he and his friends, the Avengers, battle against his own creation, Ultron. In the dynamic and colorful illustrations, the characters look much younger than their depictions in other comics. While the story line is continuous across the six books, there are occasional jumps forward in time that make the plot feel somewhat disjointed.

 

DC characters

Bardugo, Leigh  Wonder Woman: Warbringer
YA     371 pp.     Random    2017
Trade ISBN 978-0-399-54973-1
Library binding ISBN 978-0-399-54974-8
Ebook ISBN 978-0-399-54975-5

DC Icons series. Bardugo taps into the resurgence of Wonder Woman fandom with this DC Icons installment. Amazon Princess Diana saves a mortal girl, Alia, from a shipwreck. But Alia is actually a “Warbringer,” descended from Helen of Troy, and together the two must bring humanity back from the brink of war. Cinematic action scenes and strong gender-role messages will satisfy both existing DC fans and readers hungry for stories of girl power.

Dahl, Michael  Good Morning, Superman
PS     32 pp.     Capstone     2017
Trade ISBN 978-1-62370-850-4
Library binding ISBN 978-1-51580-970-8
Ebook ISBN 978-1-62370-851-1

Illustrated by Omar Lozano. A small boy imagines his morning rituals as Superman’s daily heroics. Speech bubbles and comic panels help differentiate between real and imaginary scenes (e.g., using green toothpaste vs. battling green kryptonite). With clever contrasts of imagination and reality throughout and a racially inclusive cast, this celebration of a child’s morning regimen and playful creativity will help keep the youngest superhero fans on task. Morning routine checklist included.

Dahl, Michael  Be a Star, Wonder Woman!
PS     32 pp.     Capstone     2017
Trade ISBN 978-1-62370-875-7
Library binding ISBN 978-1-5158-1402-3

Dahl, Michael  Sweet Dreams, Supergirl
PS     32 pp.     Capstone     2018
Trade ISBN 978-1-62370-998-3
Library binding ISBN 978-1-5158-2439-8

Illustrated by Omar Lozano. Two girls imagine going about their school and bedtime routines as Wonder Woman and Supergirl, respectively. Comic panels and speech bubbles humorously emphasize differences between real and imaginary scenes (e.g., subduing fire-breathing dragons vs. placating classmates fighting over toy dragons). Featuring racially inclusive casts, these celebrations of preschool independence and playful creativity will delight the youngest superhero fans.

Korté, Steve  Wonder Woman: The Deluxe Junior Novel
Gr. 4–6    138 pp.     HarperFestival     2017
Trade ISBN 978-0-06-268190-4
Paperback ISBN 978-0-06-268188-1

Wonder Woman created by William Moulton Marston. Diana, Amazon warrior princess of Themyscira, rescues a World War I pilot who has crashed near her hidden island; she feels she has found her calling when he tells her of the turmoil in the outside world. This easy-to-read novelization is a faithful scene-by-scene adaptation of the 2017 movie and includes eight full-color pages of film stills.

Lyga, Barry  The Flash: Hocus Pocus
Gr. 4–6    225 pp.     Abrams/Amulet     2017
Trade ISBN 978-1-4197-2815-0

Lyga, Barry  The Flash: Johnny Quick
Gr. 4–6    235 pp.     Abrams/Amulet     2018
Trade ISBN 978-1-4197-2865-5

Speedy superhero The Flash — or Barry Allen, as he’s known to his supportive team of friends — faces magical mind-control (Hocus Pocus) and a backwards, Multiverse version of our world (Johnny Quick). The appropriately fast-paced series relies on classic superhero action while integrating some science concepts. These novel spin-offs of TV’s The Flash should appeal to both casual readers and hardcore fans of the new DC canon.

Whittemore, Jo  Supergirl: Age of Atlantis
Gr. 4–6     231 pp.     Abrams/Amulet     2017
Trade ISBN 978-1-4197-2814-3

Whittemore, Jo  Supergirl: Curse of the Ancients
Gr. 4–6     243 pp.     Abrams/Amulet     2018
Trade ISBN 978-1-4197-2866-2

Kara Danvers works as a reporter, but as her alter ego, Supergirl, she protects National City. In Atlantis, the appearance of a humanoid sea creature causes normal people to become “supercitizens.” In Ancients, a curse sends Supergirl and friends back in time to Ancient Rome. Lighthearted and action-packed, these additional stories set during the second season of TV’s Supergirl will satisfy fans of the new DC canon.

Yee, Lisa  Supergirl at Super Hero High
Gr. 4–6     235 pp.     Random      2016
Trade ISBN 978-1-101-94062-4
Library binding ISBN 978-1-101-94063-1
Ebook ISBN 978-1-101-94064-8

Yee, Lisa  Wonder Woman at Super Hero High
Gr. 4–6     238 pp.     Random     2016
Trade ISBN 978-1-101-94059-4
Library binding ISBN 978-1-101-94060-0
Ebook ISBN 978-1-101-94061-7

DC Super Hero Girls series. While adjusting to a new school, Wonder Woman and Supergirl both face challenges, ranging from bullying to self-doubt to alien invasion. The plot twists are predictable, and both books focus more on traditional school issues than on super-hero action. Still, these lighthearted and fast-paced tales, full of cameos by well-known and obscure heroes, will have wide appeal.

Yee, Lisa  Batgirl at Super Hero High
Gr. 4–6     238 pp.     Random     2017
Trade ISBN 978-1-101-94065-5
Library binding ISBN 978-1-101-94066-2
Ebook ISBN 978-1-101-94067-9

Yee, Lisa  Katana at Super Hero High
Gr. 4–6     231 pp.     Random     2017
Trade ISBN 978-1-101-94068-6
Library binding ISBN 978-1-101-94069-3
Ebook ISBN 978-1-101-94070-9

DC Super Hero Girls series. When tech-savvy Barbara Gordon, a.k.a. Batgirl, is offered a spot at Super Hero High, she’s ready to prove herself. And Samurai superhero Katana must protect the hundred ancient Samurai swords mysteriously entrusted to her. These appealing series entries both focus on family and finding your place. While plot twists are predictable, there is a good mix of school problems and superhero adventure.

 

Original superheroes

Bates, Ron  The Unflushables
Gr. 4–6     322 pp.     Little/Patterson     2018
Trade ISBN 978-0-316-51000-4
Ebook ISBN 978-0-316-50999-2

Sullivan Stringfellow lives in Nitro City, where plumbers used to be heroes but are now outlawed. Sully — a natural plumber who is forced to hide his talents — connects with plumbers from the Golden Age to battle Ironwater, an evil corporation set on controlling the sewer pipes. Potty puns abound but don’t clog up the plot in this delightfully funny and well-crafted tale.

Brunner, Max  Superfail
Gr. 4–6     224 pp.     Running     2017
Trade ISBN 978-0-7624-6229-2
Ebook ISBN 978-0-7624-6230-8

Illustrated by Dustin Mackay. In a world of superheroes, Marshall and his friends don’t meet that description since their powers are all defective. But when a villain hatches a plot to destroy the famous Superteam, Marshall and his buddies must overcome their difficulties to save the day. This prose/graphic novel hybrid’s sepia-toned illustrations with splashes of color reinforce the fallible nature of the relatable misfits.

Fry, Michael  How to Be a Supervillain
Gr. 4–6     305 pp.     Little/Patterson     2017
Trade ISBN 978-0-316-31869-3
Ebook ISBN 978-0-316-31872-3

Despite coming from a long line of famous supervillains, twelve-year-old Victor is “not the good kind of bad kid. [He’s] the bad kind of good kid.” To avoid total familial shame, Victor’s parents apprentice him to a (disgraced) supervillain called The Smear. Told with a mix of text and comic strips, this new series blends humor with sly cynicism toward the superhero genre. Victor returns in How to Be a Supervillain: Bad Guys Finish First and How to Be a Supervillain: Born to Be Good.

Garza, Cynthia Leonor  Lucía the Luchadora
PS     40 pp.     POW!      2017
Trade ISBN 978-1-57687-827-9

Illustrated by Alyssa Bermudez. The boys on the playground claim that girls can’t be superheroes, making Lucía mad. Her abuela gives her a luchadora costume, which emboldens Lucía. Hidden behind the mask, she soars through the playground better than all the other children; after rescuing a puppy, Lucía reveals her identity. Energetic watercolors illuminate a diverse crowd of children led by a strong, dynamic personality who’s unabashedly proud to be a girl. Lucía’s adventures continue in Lucía the Luchadora and the Million Masks.

Hansen, Justin Larocca  Secondhand Heroes: Brothers Unite
Gr. 4–6     160 pp.     Dial     2016
Library binding ISBN 978-0-3991-8671-4
Paperback ISBN 978-0-8037-4094-5

In this series-opening graphic novel, brothers Tuck and Hudson gain superpowers from junk their mom picks up at an estate sale. As the tale seeks its footing — establishing ground rules, motivation, bad guys, and setting — its plot flounders slightly. Despite the uneven pace, action abounds, and the richly colored, realistic panel illustrations; clever premise; and suspenseful ending will engage readers. Look for sequel Secondhand Heroes: In the Trenches.

Harper, Benjamin and Stephens, Sarah Hines  Bug Girl
Gr. 4–6     297 pp.     Imprint     2017
Trade ISBN 978-1-250-10661-2
Ebook ISBN 978-1-250-10660-5

Illustrated by Anoosha Syed. Amanda’s fascination with insects manifests as bug-like superpowers when evil creatures invade her hometown and kidnap her mother. This origin story reveals Amanda’s mother’s own crime-fighting history and sheds light on the dissolution of Amanda’s friendship with Emily, who is also an emerging superhero. Occasional bug facts and lighthearted black-and-white illustrations with fluorescent green accents accompany this emotionally deep, girl-power adventure tale. The story continues in Bug Girl: Fury on the Dance Floor.

Ignatow, Amy  The Mighty Odds
Gr. 4–6     231 pp.     Abrams/Amulet    2016
Trade ISBN 978-1-4197-1271-5

Oddly matched victims of a bus accident discover they each have a very specific superpower in this novel sprinkled with newspaper articles and cartoon drawings. Who knew the ability to teleport four inches to the left could be so useful? The middle-school dynamics and humor (including occasional crassness) are well rendered and realistic. Look for sequels Against the Odds and Odds & Ends.

London, C. Alexander  The Adventures of Wrong Man and Power Girl!
Gr. K–3     32 pp.     Philomel     2018
Trade ISBN 978-0-399-54893-2

Illustrated by Frank Morrison. A (brown-skinned) girl is put in time-out. What follows is a humorous comic-book story about an inept superhero who looks suspiciously like the girl’s father. Wrong Man has a knack for making any problem worse; luckily, his daughter, Power Girl, is there to resolve them. Morrison’s comic-panel illustrations capture the drama of a superhero origin story but add silliness to this one, which ends happily — with time-out over.

Meyer, Marissa  Renegades
YA     556 pp.     Feiwel     2017
Trade ISBN 978-1-250-04466-2
Ebook ISBN 978-1-250-16407-0

Meyer’s new superhero story questions what makes someone with special powers (i.e., “prodigies”) good or evil. Nova (a.k.a. Anarchist prodigy Nightmare) infiltrates the ranks of Gatlon City’s ruling prodigies, the Renegades, to seek revenge for her murdered family. Her narration alternates with that of love interest Adrian, son of the Renegades’ leaders. Complex world-building, compelling characters, and plenty of action should draw in sci-fi fans.

Montijo, Rhode  Chews Your Destiny
Gr. 1–3     128 pp.     Hyperion     2013
Trade ISBN 978-1-4231-5740-3

Gumazing Gum Girl! series. Gabby Gomez loves to chew gum. Despite her mother’s warning, she chews until she is literally transformed into sticky superhero Gum Girl. She uses her superpowers to stop a robbery, rescue a kitten, and prevent an airplane crash, all while maintaining her secret identity. The action-packed story and comic book–style illustrations are perfect for readers with an appetite for ludicrous superhero fare. Look for sequel Gum Luck.

Pilkey, Dav Dog Man
Gr. 1–3     232 pp.     Scholastic/Graphix     2016
Trade ISBN 978-0-545-58160-8

Color by Jose Garibaldi. George and Harold (of Captain Underpants fame) return to create a new comic book, with childlike illustrations, handwriting, and humor, as well as “flip-o-ramas” and angry teacher intrusions. After a bombing gone awry, an operation — a canine head sewn onto a cop’s body — renders the ultimate crime-fighter. This unlikely premise provides excellent fodder, and the book operates smoothly within its own logic. The story continues in Dog Man Unleashed, Dog Man: A Tale of Two Kitties, Dog Man and Cat Kid, Lord of the Fleas, and Brawl of the Wild.

Robertson, David A.  Strangers
YA    233 pp.     HighWater     2018
Paperback ISBN 978-1-55379-676-3
Ebook ISBN 978-1-55379-737-1

Reckoner series. Cole returns to his Cree community, which is caught up in a rash of illnesses and violent murders that he’s suspected of precipitating. A spirit being insists Cole is an Indigenous superhero, and he must resolve this crisis before more people die. A mash-up of thriller, superhero origin story, old-fashioned sci-fi, and YA coming-of-age; Indigenous imagery and cultural references bring these genres’ conventions into an invigorating context. The story continues in Monsters.

Savage, Stephen  Supertruck
PS     32 pp.     Roaring Brook/Porter     2018
Trade ISBN 978-1-250-14154-5

New ed., 2015. Unlike the “brave trucks” (bucket, fire, tow), our bespectacled hero quietly goes about his job collecting trash. When a blizzard hits, the garbage truck sneaks into a garage and emerges — with a plow attachment — as “SUPERTRUCK!” Simple shapes and bold colors create visually approachable images. The text is spare, but there’s plenty of drama! mystery! danger! in this just-as-engaging board-book version of Savage’s preschooler-perfect superhero book.

Underwood, Deborah  Super Saurus Saves Kindergarten
PS     40 pp.     Disney/Hyperion     2017
Trade ISBN 978-1-4231-7568-1

Illustrated by Ned Young. Superheroes, dinosaurs, and comic-book action combine in this first-day-of-school book. Dino-kid Arnold, a.k.a. Super Saurus, has a plan to avoid the evil clutches of kindergarten. Every time Arnold tries to avoid school, the art and lettering take on an energetic comic-book feel. Eventually, Arnold is able to apply his superhero skills to adapt to the new situation. A fresh take on a well-worn topic.

 

Fandom

Breslaw, Anna  Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here
YA     281 pp.     Penguin/Razorbill     2016
Trade ISBN 978-1-59514-835-3

When snarky fanfiction writer Scarlett’s favorite TV show gets canceled, she and her fandom friends agree to write about original characters. But Scarlett’s fiction has a basis in people she knows, and her worlds soon get tangled. Breslaw captures the enthusiasm of the fandom world, but doesn’t shy away from heavier emotion when Scarlett suffers a real-life loss.

Castellucci, Cecil  Don’t Cosplay with My Heart
YA     277 pp.     Scholastic     2017
Trade ISBN 978-1-338-12549-8
Ebook ISBN 978-1-338-12550-4

Edan starts a cosplay (“costume play”) club called SEW: Superheroes Everywhere. In addition to drama within SEW — from sniping among members and a love triangle to sexual objectification and a false accusation of theft — Edan also weathers turmoil at home. Edan’s frustrations at not having her passions taken seriously are relatable, and interactions among the casually diverse SEW crew make for a mostly breezy, diverting read.

Castle, Jennifer  What Happens Now
YA     376 pp.     HarperTeen     2016
Trade ISBN 978-0-06-225047-6

After a year of fantasizing about Camden, Ari starts the summer before senior year not quite able to believe that her fantasies may becoming reality. Camden seems equally attracted to her, and he introduces her to a world of sci-fi and cosplay where Ari feels at home. Characters are realistically drawn, even if the inevitable romantic complications are somewhat slow to materialize.

Cherry, Alison, Ribar, Lindsay and Schusterman, Michele  The Pros of Cons
YA     346 pp.     Scholastic/Point     2018
Trade ISBN 978-1-338-15172-5
Ebook ISBN 978-1-338-15173-2

Vanessa, Phoebe, and Callie — attendees of vastly different conventions (fandom, percussion, and taxidermy, respectively) — meet at a convention center and form a friendship better than many of their existing relationships with their con-companions. Well-drawn characters enhance the humor of this multiple-perspectives tale, which is light but progressive; Vanessa’s blossoming romance with genderqueer Merry is a particularly heartwarming subplot.

DiPiazza, Francesca Davis  Fandom: Fic Writers, Vidders, Gamers, Artists, and Cosplayers
YA     120 pp.     Twenty-First Century     2018
Trade ISBN 978-1-5124-5049-1
Ebook ISBN 978-1-5124-9887-5

A thorough, clear introduction to the concepts of fandom and fanworks, aimed primarily at those new to the subculture. DiPiazza uses plenty of examples from — and quotes from members of — a variety of fandoms, and she doesn’t shy away from discussing controversies such as the misogynistic harassment of Gamergate. Black-and-green graphics and relevant photos break up the text. Reading list, websites. Bib., glos., ind.

Lundin, Britta  Ship It
YA     378 pp.     Disney/Freeform     2018
Trade ISBN 978-1-368-00313-1
Ebook ISBN 978-1-368-01698-8

Sixteen-year-old fanfiction blogger Claire asks at a Comic-Con panel if the two male leads on her favorite TV show are in love. Costar Forest’s dismissive response sets off a chain of events affecting the show, the fandom, and Claire’s conception of her own sexuality. The alternating-perspective chapters of this funny, thoughtful, intersectional story are sure to keep readers in the fandom community turning pages.

Poston, Ashley  Geekerella
YA     317 pp.     Quirk     2017
Trade ISBN 978-1-59474-947-6

Recasting Prince Charming as Darien, dreamboat star of a cult sci-fi show’s new reboot, and the prince’s ball as “ExcelsiCon,” Poston delivers a sweet, breezy “Cinderella” update. A cosplay contest offers heroine Elle a chance to attend the premiere of her beloved Starfield — with Darien. This sweet rom-com smartly serves up hidden identities, unabashed fandom, thwarted yearnings, and satisfying triumphs.

Rowell, Rainbow  Fangirl
YA     438 pp.      St. Martin’s Griffin      2013
Trade ISBN 978-1-250-03095-5

Change-resistant college freshman Cather holes up in her dorm room, writing fantasy fanfiction. But as the year progresses, she is pushed outside her comfort zone by her snarky roommate, Reagan; by Levi, Reagan’s ex-boyfriend (and eventually Cath’s first love interest); and by her manic but well-meaning father. Rowell transitions seamlessly between Cath’s strong interior voice and clever dialogue in this sophisticated coming-of-age novel.

Cynthia K. Ritter About Cynthia K. Ritter

Cynthia K. Ritter is associate editor of The Horn Book Guide. She earned a master's degree in children's literature from Simmons College.

Share
Comment Policy:
  1. Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  2. Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  3. Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through (though some comments with links to multiple URLs are held for spam-check moderation by the system). If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.

We accept clean XHTML in comments, but don't overdo it and please limit the number of links submitted in your comment. For more info, see the full Terms of Use.

Speak Your Mind

*