superheroes

Q&A: Patrons ask; librarians answer: Superhero books for my 4-year-old; bad idea or good idea?

Q: My child wants to read about superheroes, but those DC & Marvel comic books are too violent! Do you have anything for younger kids?  He’s only 4 years old. Kapow by O'Connor

A: Yes, we do! Here's a list of titles you can read aloud to your kids today – all of them about superheroes, most aimed at younger kids, ages 3 to 6.

The past decade has seen an explosion of picture books about superheroes. Many parents are concerned about violence in books and other media for children, and the basic idea of a superhero is that there's a bad guy to stop. If there's a bad guy, there's a strong likelihood that there's going to be fighting, maybe blood, and possibly death.

Wonder Woman by CosentinoClever authors & illustrators have managed to craft stories that include all the positive elements of superheroes (standing up for what's right, working together as a team, using your own special abilities, helping others, and wearing a cape) while de-emphasizing the terrible elements of the evil villains. In these books, the villains are not indestructible, the violence is off-screen, the battle doesn’t cause massive destruction, and the bad guy is stopped - not killed.

If you are hesitant to read these books aloud to your child, here are some further thoughts on reading violent books to children. First, there are books for every emotional, social, and intellectual stage of development. Can a case be made in favor of books that contain “violence” that is appropriate to each level? Consider these observations from the Children's Librarian's Desk: Courageous Captain America by Thomas

  1. Violence is clearly fascinating to many children (as well as teens and adults). The Mighty Thor by Thomas
  2. Families who shelter their children from violent literature do not seem to eradicate their interest in it nor their impulse to act it out.
  3. Reading superhero books does not seem to make a child more violent. (There is a little recent research on comic books and other literature with superheroes. However, anecdotally, my observations of library patrons indicate that readers become thinkers, and thinkers take a breath before they act violently.)
  4. Violence and aggression still exist in the real world, and many children are already trying to make sense of it. Even children who have been spared the direct experience of violence (or of witnessing it) meet other children who are experiencing it and they observe & interact with them with or without the presence and guidance of adults.
  5. Reading aloud together is an excellent way to start a dialogue about violence, consequences, and justice. The characters in literature can be good or bad examples, and while reading, you can discuss the best way to resolve conflict, recognize violence, avoid aggressors, and keep yourself safe.  

It's important to choose books that are right for your individual child -- luckily, most books for 4-year-olds are short enough so you can pre-read them and get ready to answer questions, discuss ideas, and give real-life examples. You can avoid those books that may be a trigger of specific fears -- until you both are ready to read them.Nino Wrestles the World by Morales

It makes sense to avoid gratuitous bloodshed, exploitative costumes, and stories about truly depraved, twisted evil-doers, and stick instead to superheroes who fight simple crimes and lay out the concepts of consequences and justice plainly.

Isn't there something wonderful about super-powers, heroism, and winning a righteous fight? Even young children appreciate the vivid images of that glorious moment, of overcoming adversity, of standing proudly together, of your cape flowing in the wind!

The Picture Books that seem to me to best capture the awesomeness of superheroes, while respecting the sensibilities of younger readers are these:

Astonishing Secrets of Awesome Man  Batman by Cosentino  Superman by Cosentino  Max by Graham  Lucha Libre by Garza  Art Dog by Hurd  Marveltown by McCall  SuperHero ABC by McLeod  Superhero School by Reynolds  Superhero by Tauss  The Amazing Spider-man, an Origin Story by Thomas  Avengers, an Origin Story by Thomas  Wolverine, an Origin Story by Thomas  

There are a few board books:

Superman Fights for Truth by Lemke.  Batman is Brave by Lemke

...and in our Comic Books section, we have a few superhero series that avoid gore and give positive messages:

Fashion Kitty series  Guinea Pig, Pet Shop Private Eye series  Squish Super Amoeba series  DC Super Friends series  Tiny Titans series

Enjoy this one last book!

Kung Pow Chicken series