Superheroes Don’t Eat Veggie Burgers by Gretchen Kelley, 2016
Children’s novel for grades 5-8; fantasy
Charlie Burger is starting middle school. During lunch on his first day, he somehow attracts the attention of the bully Boomer Bodbreath. Charlie’s day gets worse when he finds out that his younger sister Lucy made it into the soccer academy, and he didn’t. Charlie’s new science teacher has given everyone a journal, and Charlie uses his to write a story in which he is a superhero and Lucy turns into a dog. To his surprise, when the Burger family gets up the next morning, Lucy acts like a dog. In fact, all of the stories that Charlie writes in his journal later come true—at least partially. Charlie tries to use this power for good, but somehow, everything keeps turning out for the worse.
This book falls into what is normally my favorite genre: stories that are mostly realistic with an element of fantasy. While I did enjoy this book overall, it didn’t quite live up to its own plot summary. I felt that there were a few too many aspects of the story that weren’t fully developed. For example, the veggie burgers mentioned in the title and in the opening chapters are not remotely significant to the plot and only come up a couple times. Charlie’s grandmother Pickles shows up frequently, but doesn’t contribute much to the plot. And Charlie’s sisters Stella and Lucy, as well as his father, are not very well-developed characters, even though a large portion of the book is devoted to Charlie’s family life. In my opinion, the magical element of the story is not satisfactorily explained. And finally, the ending feels awkward and rushed, probably because the last couple chapters take place so long after the rest of the book.
However, despite all those shortcomings, I could see myself recommending this book to certain middle schoolers or older elementary-school-aged children. It has humor, it has suspense, and it has likably realistic characters. There’s an underlying theme of friendship, since Charlie has such positive relationships with his best friends Franki and Grant. (Charlie develops a crush on Franki, and there’s even a little kissing, which might make the book less appealing for kids significantly younger than the protagonists) Although parts of the book are quite lighthearted, it also addresses serious issues; Franki’s stepfather is abusive, some of Charlie’s classmates are suspected to have meningitis, and Charlie’s mother loses her job near the end of the book. Charlie’s relationship with his mother is alternatively tense and affectionate, but always believable. For me, it’s one of the strong points of the book.
Additional information for teachers and parents:
This book has not been given a Lexile score, and other leveled reading information is not available.