What does it take to become a hero?
From a tilted airborne angle, the opening double-page spread shows brick houses and tiled roofs in faded reds and warm grays. Where’s Gideon, the “nice boy” in this “once upon a time”? He sits in his yard, tiny and barely noticeable, wearing a red cape that barely registers. Gideon’s life is unsatisfying, and although he soon appears larger—especially when dismembering and stabbing teddy bears—he’s unsure how to become a hero. Must he be strong, brave, and clever? Must he kiss someone? Imagining scenes from familiar fairy tales like “Cinderella,” Gideon concludes that he need only “be in the right place at the right time” and “pay attention.” So he does—except he totally doesn’t. Heroism possibilities appear left and right; Gideon’s oblivious. Then a briefly wordless supermarket scene unfolds with heroism-related twists and hilarity. Someone’s definitely a hero, but is it Gideon? Heide’s third-person-very-limited narration follows Gideon’s unmindful perspective while the illustrations show far more. Groenink uses pencil and Photoshop to create warm, low-saturation scenes with an old-fashioned lilt, using color judiciously in fantasy scenes, such as varying purples during a dragon-killing, or on Gideon’s nose, which is sometimes peach-skinned like the rest of his face but sometimes dark red, plum, or purple. Classical references (Propp & Bettelheim Quality Butchers) add a layered spark.
Heroism with a wink. (Picture book. 3-6)