Picture Book Review: How to Be a Hero by Florence Parry Heide & Chuck Groenink
Once upon a time, there was a nice boy and his name was Gideon. He lived in a nice house, and he had nice parents and lots of toys. But Gideon wasn’t satisfied. He wanted to be a hero. You know, a hero, with his name on the front page of the newspaper. That sort of thing. So how does anyone get to be a hero, anyway? Heroes have to be strong. Heroes have to be brave. Heroes have to be clever. Don’t they? With wry humor, Florence Parry Heide and Chuck Groenink explore how we choose our idols in a witty story that leaves it to readers to decide the real nature of heroism.
What does it really take to be a hero? In Florence Parry Heide and Chuck Groenink’s terrifically fun How to Be A Hero, readers are taken on a witty and dry look at fairy tale heroes and one boy’s misdirected quest for acclaim.
We meet our protagonist, Gideon, as he sits in his pristine backyard, wearing a red cape and reading a story. We immediately learn that everything and everyone in Gideon’s life is nice. However, nice is simply not enough for Gideon! He wants to be a hero “with his name on the front page of the newspaper” or to be similarly recognized for an act of heroism. After considering and summarizing a few fairy tales and other stories of bravery, young Gideon comes to the understanding that being a hero is actually not about being clever or brave or strong…one simply must be “at the right place at the right time” to be a hero.
So, on the alert, keeping his eyes peeled for any possibilities of hero time, Gideon finds himself in the supermarket looking to buy a candy bar. Here, Parry Heide and Groenink rather wonderfully delineate two concurrent scenarios in the supermarket: one where a woman carrying a baby slips on a rolling apple, and one where we see Gideon stopping an apple with his foot, arms stretched up high…as he finds himself at the receiving end of great fanfare- balloons, pictures, everything. For what, I will not say as I would like readers to discover this for themselves! But I will say that the author and the illustrator work their magic to make the story- and Gideon’s understanding of heroism- even more facetious and tongue-in-cheek.
Overall, How to Be a Hero is a great read- droll and fun. The combination of Parry Heide’s sparkling, conversational-style writing with that of Groenink’s pitch-perfect, naturally comical illustrations are a winning mix. Any readers who are fans of Parry Heide’s delightful picture book Princess Hyacinth; the work of authors and illustrators such as Jon Scieszka, Lane Smith, Jon Klassen, or David Shannon; or those who enjoy unexpected picture books such as Mo Willems’ That Is Not a Good Idea!, might really relish Gideon’s story.
I received a copy of this title courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.