Review: ‘Mik Murdoch, Boy Superhero’ by Michell Plested

Cover of the book, showing a young boy opening his red shirt to reveal another (white) shirt underneath (Superman style), with the book's title on the shirt underneath.

Overall

4 stars

What Happens in this Book? (**Spoilers!**)

Mik Murdoch wants to be a superhero. He spends a lot of time & effort trying to make himself into one, generally fumbling around and being more funny than fruitful with this effort. He starts to figure it out, though, as he helps others in his hometown. He’s then rewarded with a magical experience that just might lead to him truly becoming a superhero.

Kid’s Review

My boy is only 2, but I really am going to try to remember to give him this book when he’s older. Channeling myself at the target age, I would have loved this book! I read all the Hardy Boys mysteries at this age, and there was some other series I read then that was even more like it (what was the name? something where the kid was nicknamed brain? Google is no help arggghhh…) and this style is similar, but more fun!

Parents’ Review

This book was great! I definitely enjoyed it.

I have a few nitpicks, of course, so let’s get those out of the way.

I’m not a super fan of how the issue with the bully Lillian is resolved. Basically both Lillian and her mean dog end up getting hurt. That, along with her getting found out at school, causes her to leave Mik alone, all good enough (and perhaps in reality, these are the only things that would have stopped this kind of bullying), but I wish something more fruitful would have happened here, especially since the author takes the time to make us feel sorry for Lillian and her hard life. I would have liked it much more if Mik could have helped Lillian in some way, or at least made peace with her. I mean, don’t make me feel sorry for the girl and then knock her down more… even if she was knocking him down. Hurt people hurt people, right? So I would have loved to see something go more to the root of her issues.

The depiction of the mystical Indian cave of wonders is problematic. See the Details section below for more info.

Some little things that caught my attention: I really don’t get why the bad guys are using a lit-up inflatable turkey. That’s just… such an unbelievable choice for bad guys to make. The parents are pretty oblivious at times (though I generally like them), like when Dad just lets Mik collect oil without ever checking on that project.

Now, back to why this book is great!

1: The conversational style of Mik. He is very believably written, in my opinion, and he’s sweet and fun. He is flawed and learns as he goes.

2: For the plot, there’s just enough interesting stuff going on without it being too suspenseful for the target age. It’s a perfect blend of silly stuff and serious stuff.

3: There’s some really good wisdom hidden in here, like when Mom is talking with Mik about foster kids. “Mom shook her head. ‘Sometimes, children misbehave when they are sad. Sometimes, they can’t get along with their foster parents and move to another house in hopes they can do better there.’ That made a certain amount of sense. I know I would be mad if someone took me away from Mom and Dad.” That’s great stuff, folks.

What Do I Do With This Information?

I definitely recommend this book as a fun read for 8-14 year-olds, and especially boys, though I think girls will enjoy it as well. BUT I would really recommend this as one you only give if you’re going to engage with your child about the the bullying and mystical natives issues. This is actually perfect for those weighty discussions because it is a fun read that’s likely to engage the child and can still lead to some important insights for them with your help.

Buy This Book

Amazon Link

Details

Author Michell Plested
Illustrator N/A
Publisher Evil Alter Ego Press
Year 2012
ISBN 978-0-9947266-6-7
Page count (story text & images only) 228
Series Mik Murdoch
Target Age Range 8-14
Gender bias / Sexism No gender bias detected, except perhaps in that Mom and Dad seem to have rather traditional roles around the home. But Mik befriends the (female) librarian, who turns into an important character, and overall I felt that both sexes were well represented.
Racism / Cultural Appropriation Race isn’t really discussed in here, though I would say everyone comes off as white and middle class.

There is definitely an issue here with native tribes being mystical and wise and magical… and, more significantly, gone, except for one lingering shapeshifter spirit (“the guardian”). Please see this blog post for an excellent discussion of why this is a problem. But, in short, it trivializes actual native spirituality (putting it in the realm of fiction) and contributes to ignoring them as a current people today.

Ableism Passive ableism, in that everyone is able-bodied.
Heteronormative All couples are hetero.
Spiritual / Christian Mostly N/A, though there are spiritual/mystical/fantasy happenings toward the end.
Respectful (vs. manipulative / behavior modification / etc.) Very respectful toward children. No moralizing, behavioral manipulation, etc. Mik is given a lot of agency and figures things out himself well.
Interactions with Parents Interactions with adults are decent, and several are caring relationships, but often the adults are depicted as clueless. Mik lies to his parents, sometimes to “protect” them, says he thinks they’ll go “blabbing” about him being a superhero, and doesn’t trust them with some critical information. Teachers and school authorities are largely negative — they won’t hear Mik out when he tries to explain what’s going on (and neither do his parents) and they punish him without giving him a chance. (No wonder he doesn’t trust them, eh?) Mik’s friendship with Miss Purdy, the librarian, is basically a friendship of equals.
Realistic Realistic depiction of a young boy’s fantasy of becoming a superhero, and then unrealistic as he actually fights criminals by himself and experiences magical powers being used.
Pro-STEM N/A
Pro-creativity / Artsy N/A… unless you count Mik’s creation of a superhero costume and very creative use of cow patties…
Interactivity (touch, flaps, batteries, etc.) Illustrations and text only.
EQ This book is not centered on emotions, though I think Mik experiences some pretty realistic ones that he does talk about. Perhaps the best scene from this standpoint is when Mik wants his new puppy, Krypto, to like him and breaks down crying because he thinks he doesn’t. Mom reacts well to this, comforting him and then explaining how Krypto misses his family.
Commercialism No commercialism, except perhaps in the mention of 7-11.
Labelling (both good & bad) I think there is a fair amount of mild labeling throughout the book (I remember both Lillian and her dog, Princess, being called “mean”), but I have to confess I wasn’t paying attention to this issue while reading it to really weigh in here.
Scary Not scary. Some mild suspense.
Sad Not sad, though Mik does feel sad once when talking about his dog, and I felt sad for Lillian and for Mik when no one would listen to him.
Bodies N/A
Language Only English used in the text (including by the guardian); very few errors (in fact, I only highlighted one: “pouring over a copy of the map”); no rhyming.
Illustrations N/A
Notes I was provided a free copy of this book for an honest review.

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