An African-American child who loves vegetables uses his superpowers to keep bad-health monsters away in this picture book by author Base and illustrator Hefke (Toni the Superhero, 2018).
Toni is a seemingly ordinary youngster who can transform into a caped-and-masked hero. Using his “Veggie Power,” he combats such villains as Mr. Softy Bones, who can make bones grow soft; Mr. Gross Yucka Boo Boo, who can cause sickness; and Ms. Tummy Slam Pangs, who gives people stomachaches after they eat junk food. Sometimes Toni’s powers appear as rays from his eyes; at other times, they appear to have a martial arts element. Hefke’s two-page spreads of cartoon clouds with limbs flailing and comic-book–style sound effects obscure any depiction of actual violence. In short sentences with repeated keywords (“Toni eats vegetables. Vegetables make him strong”), Base emphasizes eating veggies of different colors, which will give preschool lap-readers the opportunity to identify both the hues and the vegetables portrayed. Although Toni and his friends, a diverse group, don’t speak any lines, their illustrated reactions to bad guys and good foods will give readers instant understanding.
An accessible, brightly colored work that may appeal to young fans of superheroes and kids who need a little encouragement to eat healthier.