How to Be a Hero by Florence Parry Heide


How to Be a Hero by Florence Parry Heide, illustrated by Chruck Groenink (InfoSoup)

Gideon is a boy who knows exactly what he wants and that is to be a hero. So he reads a lot about heroes and looks forward to having his picture in the newspaper. At first he thinks that in order to be a hero you need to be strong, brave and clever. But then as he reads more stories, he realizes that a lot of heroes just happen to be in the right place at the right time. So Gideon starts walking around looking for opportunities to simply step in and be the hero. One day at the grocery store, Gideon is shopping for candy when something happens. Will Gideon be the hero he hopes to be?

There is something delightfully irreverent about this picture book. It shows glimpses of fairy tale heroes and princes who all become heroes via no skills of their own. Then there is Gideon, a boy in search of fame and acclaim. He is not driven at all by hopes of helping someone, making his search for heroism all the more cynical. As readers watch the opportunity for real heroism literally pass Gideon by, they will realize that it is those who are not searching for fame who are the real heroes. Still, Gideon gets his own taste of fame in the end.

Groenink’s illustrations add to the story. He has small touches in the book that add real life and dimension. While the real life images are more muted, the heroes in the stories are boldly colored and fill the page. That same feel is echoed again in real life when heroism happens at the grocery store. Breaking that moment into steps allows the readers to mistake what is happening at first, deepening the truth about heroism.

A mix of fairy tale heroes, one hero in waiting and one true hero, this picture book is impressive for its tone and attitude, setting it apart on the crowded library shelves. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.