From School Library Journal
Kindergarten-Grade 3–A lackluster tale of a boy with a secret identity. Maleek loves comic books, and he also invents amazing gadgets. When he sees the newspaper headline that reads, CITY PARKS & PLAYGROUNDS VANISH OVERNIGHT, he springs into action. Wearing his superhero cape and goggles, he and his robot, Marvyn, jump into a time machine and travel 500 years into the past to collect plant and flower specimens, which they use to concoct gigundo juice. Back in the present, he sprinkles it all over the city, achieving the desired effect–lush, larger-than-life vegetation everywhere, including the skyscrapers' rooftops. The book is illustrated with black-and-white photographs that appear posed and static. The lack of a tangible villain also detracts from the plot and adventure. Everyone knows that superheroes fight bad guys. While teachers might want to use this title as an alternate read-aloud for Earth Day, youngsters yearning for comic-book action will be sorely disappointed.–Barbara Auerbach, New York City Public Schools
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PreS-Gr. 2. In this picture book's opening photo, an African American boy, Maleek, gazes upon a comic book, face bathed in light from its glowing pages. The scene encapsulates the sense of wonder that superhero tales hold for children. But Maleek isn't just a consumer of secondhand adventure. He keeps "HIS superhero costume in a top secret hiding place," and he springs into action when the parks and playgrounds in his metropolis mysteriously disappear. The story is unexceptional, but the photographs used to illustrate it are powerful. Tauss, whose work can also be found in Barbara Rogansky's Leaf by Leaf: Autumn Poems (2001), 0 shoots in high-contrast black-and-white, with rich, silvery results reminiscent of the retro sf film Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. But even children who don't grasp the nostalgic references will enjoy the mix of realism and unabashed artifice in the photos and the kid-driven heroics. Pull out Brian Pinkney's The Adventures of Sparrowboy (1997) or George O'Connor's Ka-Pow! (2003) and Ker-Splash! (2005) for more kids in capes. Jennifer Mattson
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