cover image Superworm


Julia Donaldson, illus. by Axel Scheffler. Scholastic/Levine, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-545-59176-8

The winning team behind The Gruffalo and other books casts a pink, squiggly worm as a superhero, then introduces a dastardly villain, Wizard Lizard, who captures Superworm for his own nefarious purposes. Since Superworm always uses his superpowers to help animals when they’re in trouble (“Help! Disaster! Baby toad/ Has hopped onto a major road”), his neighbors conspire eagerly to free him, sneaking toward the villain’s lair to rescue him (“They jump and fly and crawl and creep.../ and find the lizard fast asleep”). Scheffler’s menagerie of insects and amphibians sport delightfully dorky, wide-eyed looks of terror when things go wrong and evident satisfaction when Wizard Lizard’s magic spell is broken and Superworm is back among them. Donaldson’s seamless verse has the gratifying, thumping predictability of nursery rhymes (“We must help him if we can./ We must hatch a cunning plan!”), and the action hurtles along nonstop. The fact that the hero is a creature that is usually thought of as frail and helpless carries an implicit message of its own. Ages 4–8. (Feb.)