MIDDLE GRADE REALISTIC FICTION: We Could Be Heroes by Margaret Finnegan
ABOUT THE BOOK
Hank Hudson is in a bit of trouble. After an incident involving the boy’s bathroom and a terribly sad book his teacher is forcing them to read, Hank is left with a week’s suspension and a slightly charred hardcover—and, it turns out, the attention of new girl Maisie Huang.
Maisie has been on the lookout for a kid with the meatballs to help her with a very important mission: Saving her neighbor’s dog, Booler. Booler has seizures, and his owner, Mr. Jorgensen, keeps him tied to a tree all day and night because of them. It’s enough to make Hank even sadder than that book does—he has autism, and he knows what it’s like to be treated poorly because of something that makes you different.
But different is not less. And Hank is willing to get into even more trouble to prove it. Soon he and Maisie are lying, brown-nosing, baking, and cow milking all in the name of saving Booler—but not everything is as it seems. Booler might not be the only one who needs saving. And being a hero can look a lot like being a friend.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Margaret Finnegan’s work has appeared in FamilyFun, the Los Angeles Times, Salon, and other publications. She lives in South Pasadena, California, where she enjoys spending time with her family, walking her dog, and baking really good chocolate cakes. Connect with her at MargaretFinnegan.com.
The beginning of We Could Be Heroes pulled me into the book right away. Hank's efforts to burn the book his teacher is reading to his class gets him into a lot of trouble. But it also allows the author to introduce Hank and his autistic struggles. It also brings Hank a friend, or so it seems. Maisie is a girl on a mission and thinks Hank would make a great sidekick. Maisie wants to rescue her neighbor's dog, Booler. Booler spends all his time tied to a tree because he has seizures and might get hurt otherwise. But Maisie refuses to accept this and recruits Hank to help her "save" the dog and be heroes.
But the two kids, despite meaning well, make some poor decisions that get them in trouble. And their final effort may be more dangerous than heroic. I'll admit I had a hard time with some of the decisions the kids made. Their motives were good, but they didn't listen to their parents or Mr. Jorgensen, the dog's owner. And because they acted at the last based on rumors instead of talking to Mr. Jorgensen, they put themselves into a dangerous situation. This part of the book really bothered me. However, the resolution mitigated those feelings as Maisie and Hank face the consequences of their actions and start making better choices.
Young readers will be able to appreciate Hank and Maisie's efforts to be heroic while, hopefully, also gaining some empathy for their differences. Hank and Maisie both have experienced poor treatment because they are different than their peers, and it leads them to sympathize especially strongly with Booler's predicament. But as with many people, their good motives doesn't result in wise actions, not at first anyway.
I did appreciate the fact that Hank tells the story, showing the reader his perspective and struggles with communication and his coping strategies. A good book for helping young readers develop empathy for those who are different.