CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number 37 . . . . June 2, 2017
When Archie enters Grade 6 as a new school year begins, he feels like a misfit. Classmates seem to have moved on while nothing exciting has happened in his life. Worse, everybody else has grown while he remains small and skinny. He is particularly anxious to maintain Shamini's friendship but mistakenly feels he lacks the qualities she might now prefer in a friend. They have been best friends since kindergarten, but this summer Shamini has not only developed physically, but also in confidence. Archie can't believe she will want to keep her preschool promise to attend their first dance together. Desperate to impress her, and encouraged by good friend Alfie, Archie embarks on various enterprises including running, lifting weights, the Ninja crawl and eating dozens of chicken wings in one sitting. It takes many disasters before he discovers the satisfaction of wrestling which he really enjoys and realises he need only be himself to retain Shamini's friendship.
Archie is an empathetic character, and readers aged 9-12 will readily identify with his self-consciousness and lack of esteem. Simultaneously, they will appreciate the humour in his frantic efforts to impress.
With the realistic use of both internal and external dialogue, the author has made Archie an authentic, well-intentioned and realistic character who wrestles with his confidence issues. Supporting characters, Shamini and Alfie, are also depicted as worthwhile friends who care about Archie just as he is. Sadly, it takes a genuine act of bravery on Archie's part in standing up to two bullies threatening Shamini before he, too, recognizes his own worth.
The book has ample symbolic black and white illustrations that break up the density of the text. Despite its slightly formulaic style, Superhero Ninja Wrestling Star is a fast, compelling read with an engaging plot, realistic dialogue, humorous situations and a solid encouraging resolution about being your own person and not trying to live up to the precepts of others.
Aileen Wortley is a retired librarian living in Toronto, ON.
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