Like Lava in My Veins

Nancy Paulsen/Penguin/. Jul. 2023. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780525518747.
K-Gr 3–Blending the picture book and comic book formats, author and illustrator deliver a resonant story of Bobby Beacon, a Black kid with awesome superhero powers of light and fire. Because of his struggle in controlling his abilities, Bobby enrolls in a special academy for kids with special abilities, almost setting the school bus on fire on his first day because of a mean bus driver. Initially, the teachers don’t seem to help or understand their students either, causing a girl named Pause to get expelled, and provoking Bobby into another fiery episode. Miss Brooklyn, a new, more empathetic teacher clad in Kente cloth turban and skirt, helps Bobby by making him feel more seen and at peace with himself. A sudden appearance of the institute for Supervillains at the school assembly threatens the young superhero’s newfound friendships and mastery of his abilities. In an attempt to recruit Bobby for the evil side, Headmaster Chaos and Pause appeal to his outcast status. Their overtures do not succeed as Bobby’s strong sense of self and belonging helps him triumph over the baddies and return Pause to the academy. Martinbrough’s action-filled illustrations imbue the story with fun, nearly cinematic energy, masterfully juxtaposing panels with full-bleed illustrations, as well as a variety of shifting angles and points of view.
VERDICT Fun, topical, and inspiring without being saccharine, a great choice for most collections.

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