Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster, two misfit teens in Cleveland, were more like Clark Kent than Superman. Both boys escaped into the worlds of science fiction and pulp magazine tales. In 1934, they created the superhero, but it was four years before they convinced a publisher to take a chance on their Man of Steel in a new format--the comic book.
Vintage-style drawings illustrate this book and really give the reader a feel for the time period. An afterword gives more detailed information on the duo's legal battles with DC Comics who retained the rights to Superman and left Siegel and Shuster out to dry (basically). An informative book sure to please comic book fans and anyone looking for an interesting biography. (Grades 3-5.)
Marc Tyler Nobleman’s text captures the excitement of Jerry and Joe’s triumph, and the energetic illustrations by Ross MacDonald, the author-artist of Another Perfect Day, are a perfect complement to the time, the place, and the two young visionaries.
Superman is a beloved character in American culture but I feel like Jerry and Joe should even be more
Appetizer: This picturebook explores the biographies of Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. The story begins while Siegel was still in high school, so he'll be a relatable child-like
As an adult, I couldn't stop thinking of Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, which took me an entire semester to finish reading while I was in undergrad. A teacher could take advantage of this by having students consider the number of different ways Superman has been re-imagined (from Smallville, Lois and Clark, Superman Returns, to the speech Bill gives about Superman toward the end of Kill Bill Vol. 2).
Another way to focus on this story is as the artist's journey, showing the inspirations and work it takes to develop an idea.
I liked that the illustrations were done in a classic style with broad shouldered characters that one would expect to see in old comic books (or even in some Dick and Jane series).
This is one of those historical biographies where you know many readers aren't going to engage with the person being described very well. But then, there are those few awkward turtles, who like Jerry, don't have many friends, don't like to participate in sports, are too afraid to even talk to members of the opposite sex.... Okay, so there are a lot of awkward turtles out there who can relate to Jerry. But chances are good they are a few years older than the intended audience. Despite the fact that this book is at a third or fourth grade reading level, it's probably sixth, seventh or eighth graders that will relate to the character the most. At that age, it can be difficult to get a tween or teen to pick up a picturebook. Chances are good graphic novel and comics fans will be willing to take a chance on it, but it'll probably be up to the teacher to put the book in their hands.
"Most days, Jerry Siegel slipped into the halls of his high school staring at the floor. He always wished he was going in the other direction--back home. That's where he could be with his friends. They were an extraordinary bunch."
"Jerry read amazing stories every evening, every weekend, every chance he got. If he wasn't reading, he was watching--the cinemas had no shortage of rousing motion pictures about daredevils who laughed at danger."
"Jerry also wrote his own adventure and science fiction stories. He'd pound away at his typewriter by the front window in his attic."
"While Jerry was typing in his attic, Joe was drawing in his kitchen, using a breadboard as a surface."
"In life, people got pushed around. Children lost parents. Criminals got away. In stories, heroes could prevent all of that."
To Go with the Meal:
A teacher could help adding meaning to this picturebook by exploring the context of the time period and its culture. While doing lectures on the Great Depression, a teacher could also bring in some classic comics of Tarzan or Flash Gordon.
Since Jerry had lost his father in a bank robbery, a teacher could focus on his grief and how he used that energy to help him create his art.
With middle grade students in particular, a teacher could discuss how some people feel excluded or included depending on their interests. Going off of this, a teacher could also encourage students to use books and art as a way to escape their problems.
Students could also research Jerry and Joe in more depth, learning more about their childhood and Jewish background and influences (on a side note, I was a little disappointed that aspect of their biographies was excluded. Sure, there is a brief mention that Samson was one of the inspirations for Superman, but I could have heard more).
Tasty Rating: !!!
Genre: Picture Book
Review: I didn't realize that this book was so long because it was so interesting. I didn't know about anything involving the creation of Superman, so I enjoyed reading about these men and their journey. I liked how the author mentioned the era they wrote about it in and how because they were in the Depression, they wanted to dream up somebody who spoke against that. It would be a great project for children to read this and then create their own superhero.