From School Library Journal
Grade 4–6—Nobleman portrays teenaged Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster as outcasts who found solace in the world of pulp magazines and comics. Their peers did not understand their fascination with tales of musclemen and detectives with gadgets, and their teachers deemed the stories that they loved to write and illustrate "trash." Despite these obstacles, the two friends continued writing and illustrating, and in 1934, Siegel had an avalanche of ideas about a new type of hero that he then shared with Shuster, who drew the first concept illustrations of Superman. It took another four years, however, before the superhero would make his public debut in Action Comics #1. MacDonald's illustrations are a tribute to 1930s pulp art, from the lines of the characters outlined in brown to the washes of yellow in the background. While the layout remains primarily in picture-book format, comic-book elements appear sporadically, such as with phrases separated from the rest of the text and placed in oval bubbles. One spread also uses panels to depict Siegel's thoughts as he conceptualized Superman. The story ends with the young men successfully landing a publisher. The afterword fills in more of the details, including Siegel and Shuster's long-running battle with DC Comics for a greater share of the profits, how their Jewish background affected Superman during World War II, and their final years. Boys of Steel
is a solid introduction to the history of Superman's creation, especially for children who find an outlet in storytelling and art.—Kim T. Ha, Elkridge Branch Library, MD
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*Starred Review* Though rich in thrilling big breaks and cultural touchstones, comic-book history appears most often in books for adults, such as Michael Chabon’s Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (2000), inspired by the story of Superman’s creators. This book brings the young men behind the Man of Steel to a picture-book audience. Along with a compressed account of the partnership between nerdy high-school outcasts Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel, Nobleman includes insights about superheroes’ cultural significance and the chord struck by Superman—a “hero who would always come home” even as World War II loomed on the horizon. It’s hard to imagine a better sidekick for the text than MacDonald’s illustrations, which capture the look of 1930s comics with their sepia-toned, stylized imagery, although some children may wish for more distinctions between Shuster and Siegel’s bespectacled faces. The narrative ends on an upbeat note, but the detailed, candid afterword clues youngsters into the creators’ bitter compensation battle with DC Comics. A bibliography and assurances that “all dialogue was excerpted from interviews” puts factual muscle on the narrative. Any kid who has scribbled caped crusaders in the margins of homework will find Shuster and Siegel’s accomplishment of interest; this robust treatment does their story justice. Grades 1-3. --Jennifer Mattson