Review Blog

May 15 2018

The super life of Ben Braver by Marcus Emerson

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Allen & Unwin, 2018. ISBN 9781760631680
(Age: 8-10)
Themes: Boarding schools. Heroes. Bullying. Courage
Marcus Emerson, author of the popular 'Diary of a 6th Grade Ninja' introduces us to a new sarcastic superhero sixth-grader Ben Braver. After a boring summer hanging out in the basement watching the sixties Batman shows in his basement, Ben's life changes when he goes out in search of a peanut butter cup. Confronted by the school bully Dexter Dunn, Ben's special superpowers are unleashed. This manifestation hospitalises Ben and on waking up he's sent to Kepler Academy a unique school for kids with superpowers. When he gets there he finds most of the time is spent learning to control a super power, not develop it. This is a commitment as he has to have no contact with his parents while he's away.
Ben's diary is hilarious with plenty of asides, funny one-liners, jokes and comments directed at the reader. He expresses his fears and anxieties, unsure of how he fits in with the other academy students. Penny who can control small animals, and fire-belching Noah become great friends, they investigate the mystery of the ghost in Ben's dorm room and help Ben come to understand his powers. School life is filled with exciting classes, eccentric teachers, encounters with the school goat and midnight adventures. Bullies Dexter and Vic's evil trick at the Talent Show brings Ben to a crossroads, as he decides whether to return home or dig deep and learn to be resilient.
Emerson's cartoons add to the comedy and fun of this superhero story, there's his eccentric teachers, silly antics and mysterious meetings in the wood. The super life of Ben Braver includes plenty of 80's references suited to adult readers sharing this story with their pre-teens, or teachers reading to classes. Marcus Emerson's middle grade novel begins slowly and builds up the pace, leaving us with questions unanswered, Emerson will bring his superhero Ben back in a second and third instalment.
Rhyllis Bignell

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