Heroes fall into many categories (or rather, leap): ordinary person rising to an extraordinary circumstance, just leader, brave rescuer, fierce defender. Some risk their lives. Some simply do what others refuse to do. Mostly, heroes are optimistic. (Much like children's books.) They act, believing their actions matter. And a noble act, no matter how small, does matter.
For this reason, our first hero books are about small acts.
Superdog: the Heart of a Hero, by Carolyn Buehner, ill. by Mark Buehner, depicts my favorite theme in books and movies: the character whose heart is bigger than his natural ability. Nacho Libre beautifully describes the heartbreak of this condition when he asks, "Precious Father, why have you given me this desire to wrestle and then made me such a stinky warrior?"
This character always always always stays the course of his or her dream, which is always in the service of others.
So Dexter, a.k.a. Superdog, works out to get strong, but also does small acts of heroic kindness, such as stopping purse snatchers. Of course, what he would really like is to fly. Like all earnest dogs, he is derided by a cat who is both lazy and too cool for school. No spoilers as to how those last two items dovetail beautifully.
Next, we have an ordinary boy caught in an extraordinary situation: Hurricane Katrina. A Storm Called Katrina, by Myron Uhlberg, ill. by Colin Bootman, is about Louis Daniel. His family decides to ride out Hurricane Katrina, believing it to be just another storm. They wind up, like so many others, in the Superdome, where the family is separated. That's when Louis does a small but heroic act to reunite his family. This is a great picture book for older kids and would pair nicely with the chapter book I Survived Hurricane Katrina, by Lauren Tarshis.
Finally, Imogene's Last Stand, by Candace Fleming, ill. by Nancy Carpenter. You gotta love a girl who uses her show & tell time to present a lecture series on women in history. Actually, that had me at lecture series. Imogene stumbles upon a town historical museum, which has fallen into disrepair. She lovingly restores it, only to learn that it will be demolished so that a shoelace factory can take its place. She leads a rally to save it...but no one comes to her rally. Read the book to find out how she gets people interested in the town's history--and her own protest. Really well-told story. For students of picture books, this is a textbook example of how intricately plot lines can be woven in just 32 pages of sparse text.
It has a special place in my heart because my great grandmother operated the historical society and museum in her town of Paola, Kan. As a historical note, she also won the political race for Clerk of the Court as a divorced, single mother (in the 1930s), and a Democrat (in a Republican county.) This just a short time after a car accident required her to have her leg amputated. She needed a job...she ran for office. Needless to say, my family is quite proud of Ethel J. Hunt.
Also, if Leslie Knope on Parks & Rec had a favorite picture book (and let's do make that happen, NBC,) it would be this!
Small acts make big differences. Save the Heroes! (and the Picture Book.)
Teachers, learn how to Save the Heroes! And the Picture Book! and Win Books! for Your Classroom! in the previous post.