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Superman and the Mayhem of Metallo - Sarah Hines Stephens

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Genre: Graphic Novels / Comics / Author: Sarah Hines Stephens / Paperback / 24 Pages / Book is published 2010-10-05 by HarperFestival

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      03.04.2012 23:10
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      Like comics - but for younger children.

      This is listed as a comic/ graphic novel. It isn't really, it is a story book aimed at a much younger market, but it isn't terribly far off from comic books and graphic novels. There are no speech bubbles, but the text is often presented in boxes. Most of the illustrations are full page, but there are a few pages where the pictures are split into frames and this really gives this a comic book feel. The illustration quality if fairly high as well. While I wouldn't rate this with a really top notch graphic novel, it does have better illustrations than many comics.

      Like most of superhero books for young children, the story is pretty simple. In this case Lex Luther has created a gigantic cyborg with "the mind of a criminal, the body of a robot and a heart of Kryptonite". Older readers will remember Metallo from the old DC comics, as he first appeared in 1959 and has featured in a number of comics as one of Superman's arch enemies. Lex turns this unnatural creation loose on Metropolis knowing Superman will rush into save the day. Superman is in real danger from Metallo, as the cyborg's kryptonite heart saps his strength, but thankfully Batman is on hand as well, and is unaffected by the kryptonite. The main part of the story is the battle between the two heroes and the metallic monster.

      Personally, I think the story line is far too weak in this story. There really isn't much to it other than a bash 'em, smash 'em, bust up. It isn't a bad story - but it certainly is not a good one in my opinion, and in all honesty, the only reason I bought this is that my youngest son is really wanting Superman stories too, and the proper comics / graphic novels are often a bit too complex for him as he is only 3. Despite a weak story though, the pictures are good, and the book is very reasonably priced at only £2.52 new from Amazon. Needless to say, if you do not approve of any fighting or violence in children's stories this is not for you, but the violence is very mild with no blood or gory bits, and I do not feel this could be scary or frightening to small children.

      But of course, it isn't my opinion that counts with this book. I really do not feel this book is going to appeal to adults, but it certainly does appeal to children. This book was bought for my 3 year old son, and he adores it. He loves the bright and colourful pictures, and takes over for me with all the shouting lines. I often read to the children until I lose my voice - so while I do shout a bit with the stories - I'm quite happy to let someone else take over. I am very happy to see him so actively involved in the book as well, and thankfully we have very thick walls so my neighbours aren't treated to my son's rendition of Metallo screaming or Superman shouting.

      Although my son loves this book, he does take issue with a scene in which Superman flies into space. My son feels this is silly and couldn't really happen as he says Superman would burn up going through the atmosphere and could not breath in space. He was actually interested enough in this that we tried to look it up online. We found conflicting answers - but it appears that he holds his breath. As to surviving the high temperatures of atmospheric re entry - we found nothing so I tried to put it off on his suit. My son says that it doesn't cover his head or hands so his head would burn off. If any comic book readers know a better explanation for this - please tell us! Of course I don't know how he can see a man flying at all as realistic - but sure he is only 3 years old. A giant cyborg stomping through town and battling superheroes is completely plausible to him. Flying through the atmosphere is not. All the same it led to several interesting - and I believe educational discussions - this why story time takes 2 hours in our house!

      My oldest son is age 7, and is wanting to grow up too quickly in my opinion. He feels he is too old for story books now, preferring paperbacks or graphic novels. All the same, he has admitted to liking this, and will often come in and listen to this as well. He often asks me to call him when we start the Superhero books as well - so he does still enjoy this, but I don't think I would buy this for a child over age 6. An older child might very well read and enjoy this a time or two, but I can't see an older child reading this enough to warrant the purchase price. I would make an exception for this for school use though, where the fact that it is small and expensive, and about a topic many boys enjoy might make a worthwhile addition to a classroom library. In general though - I would recommend this book for ages 2-6, with the idea that a parent will be reading to a child.

      Most of our Superhero books are levelled readers from the "I Can Read" series. This is most certainly not a levelled reader, and I believe this book is best as read aloud storybook. Many of the words would be too long and unfamiliar to a child just learning to read. Some examples of this are "stealthily" and "circuitry". Additionally, the use of white text on one page and smaller black text on a glaring yellow background seems a bit distracting to me for young readers, and I know this is meant to be very confusing for children with dyslexia. I am not rating the book down for this, as I really don't believe this was intended for very young children to read alone. I have asked my oldest son if he finds this difficult to read with the colours, and he says not really, but he wouldn't like a whole lot of pages in white text. So I gather he is OK with it, since it is such a limited amount of text, and I do agree with him on this. I can stick the glaring colours for a short story, but I think this would be a strain on my eyes if I were reading too many books like this.

      In spite of the fact that I don't find the story line especially brilliant, I am giving this 5 stars. It has excellent illustrations, and a reasonable price. The main reason for my rating though is my son. He does really enjoy this - so much so that I have bought him a second book in the same series. I asked him to choose a word to let other grown ups know if this a good book for their children choosing between "OK", "good", "very good" and "perfect", and he did choose perfect despite his issues with space travel. ( I didn't give any negative options as he clearly enjoys the book too much for that).

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