Every superhero needs a sidekick.
Every child needs a voice.
We are in a time when hatred is increasingly more prevalent. While I’m not naive to the fact that it has always been present, there seems to be a new permission, a new acceptance of insensitivity and hatred in our country. Our students are witness to this, and sadly, often mimic words and actions that they now see as acceptable behavior. They are watching. They are watching closely! Because of this, it is imperative that all students feel that they have a voice, that they matter. Equally as important is the need for all students to feel empowered to speak out against the injustice that they see and stand up for those being treated unfairly. Students need to be be a voice for those who are unable to speak for themselves. They need to have the courage to say, “Stop it!” to those who are bullying the marginalized.
In her book, Super Manny Stands Up! (Simon & Schuster 2017), author Kelly DiPucchio does just that. She gives a voice to the smallest, most timid student in the school. Each day, after school Manny wears a different colored cape and uses his power to fight off imaginary, “unsavory sea creatures”, “angry zombie bears”, “alien robots” and “evil cloud monsters” around his home and neighborhood, announcing:
“I am fearless”
“I am strong”
“I am brave”
“I am powerful”
“I am invincible”
When he goes to school, Manny wears his invisible “top secret undercover cape” giving him the power to help ward off imaginary evils that lurk throughout the school and playground.
One day at lunch, Manny is put to the test when Little One is being bullied by Tall One. Easier to sit back and do nothing, Manny must summon the courage needed to stand up to Tall One and simply say “Stop it!” At first, timid and weak, Manny digs deep and finds additional courage to raise his voice, this time saying “STOP IT! YOU’RE BEING MEAN”. Manny’s courage to give voice to Little One encourages the others around to join in, step up and help stop the bullying.
I had the opportunity to ask Kelly a few questions about Super Manny Stands Up!. Here is what she had to say
KS: Super Manny Stands Up! is such an important book. What was it about Manny (and his message) that made this the right time to introduce this story to readers?
KD: I feel like the issue of standing up for others has been relevant and important since the dawn of humanity and if you look back on our history you can see where one voice, one decision, or one act of bravery made a tremendous difference. Unfortunately, here we are in 2017, still needing to get the message across that standing up for equality and inclusion and basic human kindness is vital. I think anytime we can present this idea to kids in different formats, and from different angles, is the right time.
KS: Manny is empowered to stand up for what he knows is right, even when it's difficult. How do you hope that Super Manny will help to empower others?
KD: A year or two ago, just prior to fully waking up in the morning, I heard my intuitive voice say, “When you change one number in the equation, the answer changes.” It was such a simple, yet very profound, statement. One good deed does indeed change the world because there are ripple effects we cannot always see. I hope Super Manny will remind kids they all have their own invisible capes and can be a hero to someone in need.
Teachers, librarians and parents need to be reading Super Manny Stands Up (and books like it) to students. Discussions need to take place so that together we will learn to say “Stop it” when we see people treating others unfairly. Together we will learn to say, “Stop it” when we see or hear hateful actions or comments. And most importantly we will learn to LISTEN when someone says “Stop it!” to us. If this happens, instead of getting mad, instead of being defensive, instead of lashing out... we will, indeed, STOP. We will take a closer look at our words and actions. We will try to see things as others see. We will try to hear things as others hear. We will try to feel things as other feel.
Together we must learn to build community. We must learn to see each other. We must learn to hear each other. We must learn to understand each other. We must learn to care about each other, and accept each other. We must learn that the right thing to do isn’t always the easy thing...but we MUST do the right thing.
Like Manny, we must be fearless, strong, brave, powerful and invincible. We must be diligent in giving a voice to all people, and actually hear that voice. Now is the time to put on our capes and do better. We can always do better. We must always do better!
Super Manny Stands Up! written by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by Stephanie Graegin is published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster (2017).
Kurt Stroh is a K-4 teacher-librarian from Grand Rapids, MI. He is passionate about making sure that all children have access to books, have freedom to choose from those books, and have the ability to see themselves (and learn to understand others) in those books. He blogs at strohreads.blogspot.com. You can find him on Twitter: @strohreads.
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