Tuesday, January 25, 2022

The Supervillain's Guide to Being a Fat Kid

Wallace, Matt. The Supervillain's Guide to Being a Fat Kid 
January 25th 2022 by Katherine Tegen Books

Max isn't hopeful that Captain Clobbertime Memorial Middle School will be any better than Glow Girl Elementary, but he and his best friend Luca are hopeful, especially when their first day starts with a girl offering them welcome cookies. Things quickly spiral downwards, however, when 8th grader Johnny "Pro" gets the two in his sights. Max is fat, and Luca's family struggles monetarily, which leads to many epithets being hurled their way, and even threats of physical violence. Max's mother doesn't understand, and his father isn't in the picture, so he takes great comfort in the supervillain Master Plan. Super heroes are often celebrate in the news, but Master Plan, aka Maximo Marconius, is sent to jail even though Max thinks his motivations are much more honorable than the heroes he fights. Max writes to him in jail, and eventually gets a cryptic e mail back offering help. As a larger an himself, Master Plan understands Max's plight, and offers more constructive help than Max has gotten from his mother, teachers, or friends. He takes self defense lessons for free from a former "villainy aid" of Master Plans, acts on the realistic fashion advice, and use the Roadrunner philosophy to get Johnny Pro to cause his own destruction. When a video of Johnny beating up Max and Luca goes viral, Max starts to get more positive attention and has enough confidence to enter a baking competition. All of this, especially his more confident attitude, brings him closer to Marina, the girl who gave him a cookie on the first day. She is also interested in baking, and her father is in jail for corporate crimes. How will Max handle it when the two go head to head in the baking competition, and Master Plan insinuates himself a little too much into Max's life?

There are not a lot of books with boys who struggle with their weight, and since public perception of this situation shifts over time, something like Robert Kimmel Smith's 1981 Jelly Belly has been irrelevant for a long time. I'm not sure that the treatment of children with weight issues is always as bad as Johnny Pro's treatment of Max, but it does give Max a nemesis to vanguish.  Mercado's graphic novel Chunky and Baron's All of Me are newer title that embraces current weight philosophies. I especially liked that this did not center on attempts to lose weight, but offered brief but effective ways for Max to be more comfortable and confident with his body the way he was.

Luca is a great friend, not only sticking up for Max, but also sharing in his problems. It was great to see his emotions regarding Max's changes. Marina and Max also had a good dynamic, and were able to bond over similarities in situations and personalities. Master Plan was a rather shady figure, but he was very helpful to Max-- exactly what one might imagine a super villain might be like! 

The super heroes and villains in Max's world aren't explained very much, but Master Plan is an interesting assistant for Max's changes. Readers who liked Boniface's Ordinary Boy, Carroll's The Awakening, Kraatz's Cloak Society and Moore's V is for Villain will find this added layer of fantasy a good addition, and can look forward to the somewhat similar world of heroes in Supertown (Kupperberg, February 2022). 

Most of all, the pragmatic suggestions for feeling more comfortable in clothes and with one's abilities makes The Supervillain's Guide to Being a Fat Kid a book that both informs and entertains.
Ms. Yingling

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