They’re Heroes Too by Pat Brisson, illustrated by Anait Semirdzhyan

They’re Heroes Too: A Celebration of Community by Pat Brisson,  illustrated by Anait Semirdzhyan. Tilbury House, 2022. 9780884489368

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review): 3.5

Format: Hardcover picture book

What did you like about the book?  In this homage to heroes, ordinary people with everyday jobs get shout outs for their actions. Using rhyming couplets, Brisson celebrates a teacher, a crossing guard, a garbage collector, and chef who feeds stray cats, among others. A little girl with brown skin and black hair, traveling across the city with her grandmother, provides us with eyes to see all of these heroes in action. This book reads like a COVID-recognition effort, thinking about all the workers who kept us going during quarantine. Semirdzhyan’s watercolor and pen-and-ink illustrations are wonderful. She’s created a diverse neighborhood with lots of sights and inhabitants, most of which will be familiar to young readers. With full-page bleeds that go right to the edge and interesting perspectives, the illustrations will reward careful examination. It’s fun to look for the girl in each picture and think about how she’s moving through her day, seeing people performing all kinds of tasks. There’s even a tongue-in-cheek laugh toward the end of the book when we get to see Superman riding by on an ordinary bicycle, unnoticed by bystanders. A final set of images extorts children to be heroes themselves by performing acts of kindness.

Anything you didn’t like about it? What is a hero? The book never really answers that question. I’m a teacher, but wouldn’t say I’m a hero, even though I did work over quarantine. Is it just being kind? But people work because they have to, not because they are simply kind. I thought the message was somewhat muddled and simplistic.

To whom would you recommend this book?  This might be a good read aloud for a class studying neighborhoods, which often comes up in pre-school, kindergarten, or first grade curriculums, followed by an activity asking children to discuss and then write about their own heroes. For a more reflective look at a city during COVID lockdown, I would recommend Keeping the City Going by Brian Floca.

Who should buy this book? Elementary schools and public libraries

Where would you shelve it? Picture books

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: August 3, 2022

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