Graphic adaptations of popular prose texts are nothing new, but this past year has produced a trend of producing these adaptations for ever-younger readers. Graphic versions of I Survived and Goosebumps are being succeeded by graphic adaptations of beginning chapter books and even easy readers.

My Weird School, Magic Tree House, and others are getting their own graphic versions, but Simon and Schuster has gone all the way with a flurry of new releases adapting their most popular Little Simon titles, from The Kingdom of Wrenly to the selection for this review, Super Turbo.

The original title includes black and white illustrations and is a graphic blend, with short comics woven into the story. The art was conceived by George O’Connor, better-known for his Olympians series and the author, Lee Kirby, is most likely a pseudonym either for O’Connor himself or a Stratemeyer-like syndicate used by Simon and Schuster. There is a similar series, Captain Awesome, by “Stan Kirby” with O’Connor’s illustrations as well. I suspect the “author” for the graphic novel version, Edgar Powers, is also a pseudonym, since it is a faithful adaptation of the prose book, with simplified dialogue and some of the description cut out.

The plot is a familiar one, featuring classroom pets with a secret life. In this opening story, Turbo, the class hamster for the 2nd graders in Classroom C, is doing a little light exploring during a snow day when he encounters a number of other class pets. Once their initial surprise wears off, they discover they all have something in common: secret identities as superheroes! Their casual jaunt through the school to meet the other class pets is derailed when they encounter the villainous Whiskerface and his army of “rats” in the cafeteria and the story finishes with the class pets’ decision to use their powers to protect the school and the promise of more adventures to come.

The artist, Salvatore Costanza, is part of a large graphic design group, Glass House Graphics, and the group has done a decent job of expanding and colorizing O’Connor’s original art. The animals match the original black and white pictures: Turbo the pudgy hamster, Angelina, a guinea pig with a lightning bolt on her chest and dramatic mohawk, polka-dotted gecko, etc. The only color in the original is on the cover and the graphic novel matches Turbo’s colors there, giving him a creamy belly, green goggles, and yellow cape. Several of the pets, including Angelina the Wonder Pig, have rather freakish bare arms but this is also true to the original. The art is simple but colorful, with brightly colored but minimal backgrounds, basic furniture, and cartoon animals sporting bright colors. The panels maintain a strict sequential order, making it simple for intermediate readers to follow the dialogue and action.

If you have young readers who refuse to look at anything that’s not fully illustrated and in color, are big fans of Branches and other easy, illustrated chapters, or who love the original series, this is a good addition. The cost is higher than the original of course, but the paperback bindings appear to be sturdy and they are an attractive addition to beginning chapter collections. One caution though; unlike other graphic adaptations like My Weird School which maintain the same size, Simon & Schuster’s graphic adaptations are significantly larger, closer to the size of a typical Graphix paperback like Bone rather than the smaller paperback chapters. If, like me, you keep your beginning chapter books in tubs, this is definitely something to keep in mind when considering this addition to your library.

Super Turbo Saves the Day
By Edgar Powers
Art by Salvatore Costanza
ISBN: 9781534474468
Simon & Schuster, 2021

Title Details and Representation
NFNT Age Recommendation: Easy Readers (5-9)
Related to…: Book to Comic

  • Jennifer

    | She/Her Youth Services Librarian, Matheson Memorial Library


    Jennifer Wharton is the Youth Services Librarian at Matheson Memorial Library in Elkhorn, Wisconsin where she maintains the juvenile and young adult graphic novel collections and was responsible for creating the library’s adult graphic novel collection. She is constantly looking for great new comics for kids and teens and new ways to incorporate graphic storytelling in programming. Jennifer blogs for preschool through middle grade at JeanLittleLibrary and has an MLS from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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