It's a Friday afternoon and my son, 8-year-old Zhou, is helping me review Zero the Hero. Joan Holub wrote this book, and Tom Lichtenheld did the drawings. Lichtenheld has been a Pink Me favorite ever since Shark vs. Train for his clear, happy colors, lovely layering, and strong, funky line. And Joan Holub's Goddess Girls books are getting a lot of play with my middle grade girl readers. She sent a stack of goddess bookmarks along with the ARC of this picture book, and they were snapped up in a jiffy.
Your Neighborhood Librarian: So, youngster. What do you like about this book?
Zhou: I like the premise. I like the plot of the story, I mean, Zero thinks he's a hero and he believes in himself and all that, but he's zero and he adds up to nothing and he subtracts to nothing. And then his friends who were afraid of him because in multiplication he came in twice, and they were afraid and he felt all bad, and then his friends were captured by Roman soldiers and he hears their cries of help and he goes and saves the day.
YNL: Roman soldiers.
Z: Yeah. Roman numerals.
YNL: So, not the guys who murdered Jesus?
Z: The... what?
YNL: Never mind. What do you want to tell me about the art.
Z: I really like it, and I like how Zero still looks like a zero but you can tell he's a person. With feet and shoes. My favorite part is at the end, and at the very corner there is a bunny talking to a letter O, and the bunny says, "Hey isn't that your cousin?"
YNL: Do you recognize that O from another book?
Z: I'm sure I do but I don't remember what. What book?
Z: Is that the one with the giant robot?
YNL: Um, it's possibly one of the very few books you've ever read that doesn't have a giant robot. It's where E gets sick and O has to fill in. Maybe you didn't read it. In this, I like that end page, where Zero is pretending to be an O, and he makes the word Joy. And I like the puns.
Z: Yeah! "Zero is grEIGHT!" "You were ONEderful!" And the little cartoons in the corners, I love them.
YNL: Me too. Thanks pal.
Zero the Hero hits the street February 28. Kirkus has reviewed it already.