cover image Zero the Hero

Zero the Hero

Joan Holub, illus. by Tom Lichtenheld. Holt/Ottaviano, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-8050-9384-1

This story about the concept of zero recalls both Lichtenheld’s recent E-mergency and Kathryn Otoshi’s Zero (2010). Like the former, it features walking, talking written characters (digits, in this case, rather than letters), accompanied by Lichtenheld’s snappy, cartoon-style art. And like the latter, it features a Zero who’s scorned by his fellow numbers and who worries that he “doesn’t count.” But Holub’s (Wagons Ho!) Zero, who dresses in a superhero cape, has an inner “belief in his wonderfulness” and awaits a chance to prove it. At this point, several involved exchanges about Zero’s arithmetic functions establish that Zero extinguishes anything he’s multiplied by (Zero times a rock equals Zero), but the discussions weigh the story down and don’t seem likely to enlighten math-o-phobes. Past the blackboard digressions, things pick up as Zero rescues the other numbers from an attack by toga-clad Roman numerals, scaring them off with his destructive multiplicative powers (“Run IV your life!” one yells). Despite the energetic artwork and some clever ideas, though, Zero’s story doesn’t quite add up. Ages 6–10. Agent: Eden Street Literary. Illustrator’s agent: Amy Rennert Agency. (Feb.)