For quiet eighth-grader Jessie, an assignment about superheroes evolves into a journey of transformation.
Jessie’s superhero research spans the duration of the school year, concluding with a final debate-style competition in which Jessie must demonstrate why her selection is the ultimate superhero. When a longtime rival compares her to a sidekick, Jessie decides to apply her superhero’s qualities to her own life. She soon compiles a list of Batgirl’s traits, including physical and mental capabilities, to nurture. In diary format, Jessie chronicles her diligent research and attempts at self-improvement. While the journal entries convey Jessie’s enthusiasm, they also reveal her insecurities. Pearn’s illustrations further illuminate Jessie’s personality, capturing her inquisitiveness and determination and comically portraying her efforts with zing. Through Jessie’s investigations and discoveries, Zehr provides information on a variety of topics: pioneering women, martial arts, scientific and technological advancements, nutrition and comic-book lore. An aspiring journalist, Jessie conducts a portion of her research through interviews, and Zehr incorporates the actual words of several notable individuals in the narrative. The written responses of a police sergeant, filmmaker, astronaut, Olympic athletes and others to Jessie’s questions motivate her to continue pursuing her goals. Jessie enters the final debate with a newfound wisdom gleaned from her endeavors.
Readers should readily respond to Jessie’s mission of self-improvement. (Fiction. 10-15)