Book Review: Becoming a Superhero by William Smith

Becoming a Superhero by William D. Smith is an endearing tale that is a semi-autobiographical account of a young boy who dreams of being a superhero, and discovers a lot about himself along the way. We meet Billy Smith, a 10-year-old growing up in a Pennsylvania coal-mining town, as he decides to try his superhero powers by jumping out of the second-story window of a deserted house wearing a Superman cape he is sure will make him fly. His disillusionment doesn’t last, and he’s sure there’s some way he can become a superhero.

Set in the closing days of World War II, Billy’s story will take the reader back to the innocent times of those hard days. Times when boys collected scrap metal for the war effort, built soap box cars for derby races, and everybody watched cowboy movies. Billy’s also always getting into trouble because of his creative spelling, unusual solutions to math problems and general sense of adventure. It was a time when kids played without too much adult supervision and their neighborhood included the whole town.

Billy’s alter-ego, William, is always whispering in his ear about the things he knows he should be doing, but Billy does a pretty good job of ignoring him most of the time. Told very simply, this story is very accessible for younger readers, ages 8–12, who will appreciate Billy’s observations about his parents, his grandparents and his teachers. Younger readers being read to would probably also enjoy it, while parent readers will appreciate the quiet wisdom Billy’s mother gives him to help him learn how to become a superhero without ever developing supernatural powers. And Billy’s grandfather ultimately gives him a wonderful gift by inspiring him to leave their coal town and see the parts of the world that the grandfather knows he will never see.

While the writing is not very polished, that actually contributes to the feeling that you’re hearing a story about “those good old days” told to you by your grandpa. I believe young girls and boys both will have fun reading this book.

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