'Supercharged Superhero' by Gemma Everson - My Review
Updated: May 1, 2020
When I first got wind of the fact that someone was writing a children's book about M.E I was so excited! As a former Early Years teacher, I have such a passion for children's literature - especially that which brings attention to important social issues. Obviously, this is an issue close to my heart as well so I was thrilled when the author, Gemma Everson, reached out and asked if I would write a review of the book.
I ordered the signed copy from Etsy and it arrived with a free superhero mask for your own little superhero to wear while you enjoy the story together, which I thought was a lovely touch. The illustration on the front cover by Becky Rawlins and Hope Gwilliam is beautifully done and very inviting, depicting a scene so comfortable and familiar - that of a little girl sitting on her dad's knee and reading a story. Both of them are wearing red superhero capes. In the back of the book we are given 'The Story Behind The Story' and it explains that the book is based on the author's real life experience of her husband Tom, his struggles with M.E and the difficulties their five year old daughter had trying to understand what was happening to her dad. Something I imagine will resonate with families of M.E sufferers everywhere.
Now that we know the context of the story, let's delve in.
Written from the perspective of the little girl, the text is written in rhyming couplets, which I know young children respond really well to, and it tells the story a little girl and her 'superhero' dad. The first few pages of the story describe all the fun things they like to do together from swimming to bike rides to dancing around the living room - all illustrated beautifully in bright, vibrant colours. From the very beginning we get the clear impression of the way that the little girl looks up to her dad and enjoys all of their fun, active time together. She refers to him as her own 'Supercharged Superhero'.
Until something changes. The little girl explains how one day, her dad came home feeling very tired and went to bed early to "charge his battery with energy", for another day of fun. Except, his battery didn't charge. In fact, his battery seems to be faulty now and the little girl goes on to tell us how no matter how much he sleeps her daddy's battery never fully charges and he has to spend his days in bed; his superhero cape sadly hung up in the hall. At this point in the story, the illustration changes - the colours become much darker and more sombre, to mark the shift in tone. I think this is a great way of making this tone-shift clear to younger children who perhaps won't yet fully understand the text.
We see the little girl ask her mummy if her daddy is coming out to play, and her mum has to explain that daddy needs to rest. At this point I felt quite moved as it struck me how difficult it must be for children to understand their parents getting sick with M.E. The author does a beautiful job of explaining how her daughter's dad changed before their eyes, and we get a sense of the little girl's confusion and upset in the story as she tells us that she misses her "fun and bouncy" dad.
"A Partly-charged, fully loved superhero"
About half-way through we see the little girl have a dream, in which a voice tells her that although her dad might not have the energy to do all the things they did before, he is still here to love her and help her "enjoy being a child". And it's at this point that I think I started to cry because what comes next is a beautifully written, and gorgeously illustrated depiction of all the ways the little girl and her daddy learn to adapt to his new, faulty battery and find new fun things to do - the things they missed when they were too busy running around outside. They put on their superhero capes and enjoy reading stories, cloud watching and chatting in their den.
The story ends with the image we see on the front cover, and the little girl telling us that her dad is her "partly-charged, fully loved superhero who will always be by her side" - a sentence that made me smile and cry at the same time.
The Importance of Representation
It makes my heart sing to think of all the children of M.E sufferers who will read this book and think "that's just like me and my mummy/daddy!" and all the parents who this book will help as they try to guide their children through the difficult journey of a life touched by chronic illness. As a teacher, it also makes me happy to think about all the little ones who will get to read this and learn about empathy and how to adapt and be sensitive to people's needs.
I don't have any children of my own, but I do have a very special bond with my three year-old niece, and there have been so many times when I've wished she had known the 'old me' - the me who would have been able to chase her around the garden, take her for days out at the park or the beach and all those energetic, active things that little ones love so much. There have been many times where I've worried, simply, that I will never be her 'fun' Auntie and that as she got older she wouldn't want to spend time with me because I couldn't do all those fun things with her.
But reading this book reminded me that my niece has adapted, as children do. She understands that Auntie Lorna has to take little rests when they play together. She knows not to make too much noise around Auntie Lorna because "it hurts her poorly ears". She even covers my ears for me if she needs to use a big voice. She already shows more understanding and consideration of my M.E than most of the adults I know, quite frankly! And although I might not be able to run around the park with her, I can still read stories and have picnics on the rug. I can cuddle and chat and make her laugh. I can still spend time with her, it's just that we have to adapt what we do to my faulty battery. She understands this already and she is only three years old.
So thank you to Gemma for reminding me of the value in this. For reminding that although I might not be a supercharged Auntie, I am still a fun Auntie who gives her time, attention and love, and really that's what matters.
I think this story is really very special. It felt amazing to see my own illness portrayed in this way, and I have absolutely no doubt it will help many little ones and their own partly-charged, fully loved superheroes to find comfort.
Supercharged Superhero is written by Gemma Everson and illustrated by Becky Rawlins and Hope Gwilliam.
You can learn more about the author and where to buy the book via her website or social media:
The illustrators can be found via: