Defending San Francisco is a busy job for fourth-grade girl superhero Jo Schmo, who faces a cunning villain in this third book in the series.
Numb Skull is a retired boxer who “used to be a good guy, or at least an okay guy, but every time he was smacked in the head in the boxing ring, he lost a little of his good-guyness and his okay-guyness, until there was nothing left to do but pursue a life of crime.” He schemes to blow up a cruise ship carrying gazillionaires so that when it sinks, he can, via his submarine, steal the gazillionaires’ priceless jewels. In order to keep Jo Schmo from interfering, he runs her ragged by organizing a “crime tsunami,” which is more crime than a crime wave, which in turn is more than a crime ripple. Jo finds more difficulties in her attempts to master a new superpower, shape-shifting, which happens uncontrollably when she sleeps or sneezes. The convoluted time structure, slipping back and forth between flashbacks and current action, occasionally confuses, which will keep the target early-elementary audience on its toes. The playful illustrations have an anything-goes feel to them that matches the text’s punchy puns, wordplay and occasional fourth-wall breakage.
While there’s no doubt that Jo Schmo will eventually bring Numb Skull to justice, there’s enough hilarity and unexpectedness in the zany, quick jokes to keep readers guessing how. (Adventure. 6-9)