DC Comics and Marvel Comics superhero movies are coming out left and right. But let’s take a moment and pause this summer to recognize some real life heroes in our midst. While superheroes are often known for their flashy powers or incredible feats, many real life heroes are quietly yet equally heroic and powerful. Memoirs, biographies, and even fiction can remind readers of the strength and resilience needed to get through inevitable struggles in our journey. We teach our students resilience and gratitude throughout the school year, and summer is no time to forget those lessons. As we are fortunate enough to take a few months of vacation, we hope these picks inspire our readers to recognize the heroes around them every day.
"Lucia the Luchadora" by Cynthia Leonor Garza, illustrated by Alyssa Bermudez
Reading Level: Pre-K and up
Lucia loves zooming around the playground in her cape, pretending to be a superhero. But when the boys in her class laugh at her and say girls can’t play superhero, Lucia’s abuela reveals a stunning secret. Lucia comes from a long line of luchadoras! Masked and ready to right this injustice, Lucia is the superhero every playground deserves.
"The Old Man" by Sarah V. and Claude K. Dubois
Reading Level: Grade 1 and up
As everyone gets up to begin a new day, the old man must get up, too. He’s homeless, and drifts through the city, watching everyone pass as he remains unseen and unnoticed. That is, until a young girl approaches him, offering her sandwich. She smiles at him, really sees him, and says that he reminds her of a teddy bear. Her kindness and warmth give him the strength to to go a shelter, where he introduces himself as Teddy. This is a quiet book, one with sparse illustrations, that shows us that our most heroic actions may seem like our smallest.
"Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor: The Woman Who Loved Reptiles" by Patricia Valdez
Reading Level: Pre-K and up
Read about a real life (Komodo) dragon tamer! Joan Proctor is a pioneering female scientist who grew up loving reptiles. As an adult, she paved the way for future female zoologists and women in science through her research, work with animals, and career as the Curator of Reptiles at the British Museum.
"The Underground Abductor (An Abolitionist Tale about Harriet Tubman)" by Nathan Hale
Reading Level: Grade 3 and up
This biographical graphic novel explores the life of Araminta Ross, later known as Harriet Tubman, a spy, nurse, abolitionist, and hero. The fictional Nathan Hale tells the story of Araminta, a slave who runs North to freedom, despite grave danger. Once reaching freedom, Araminta changes her name to Harriet Tubman and bravely dedicates her life to helping other slaves escape.
"Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World" by Ann Shen
Reading Level: Grade 7 and up
This is a well-rounded list of women throughout the last 200 years who made history. From Ada Lovelace, the first female computer programmer, to Joan Jett, the “Godmother of Punk,” this book includes short biographies of many influential women accompanied by beautiful watercolor portraits.
"How Dare the Sun Rise: Memoirs of a War Child" by Sandra Uwiringiyimana
Reading Level: Grade 8 and up
From the Democratic Republic of the Congo, this is the true story of a young girl who survived a massacre when rebels came in the night. With no home and no money, she travels to the United States, starts middle school, and eventually heals through art and activism.
"All the Bright Places" by Jennifer Niven
Reading Level: Grade 10 and up
When two students meet on the edge of the bell tower, it becomes unclear who saves whom. Although dark at points, this novel reminds readers how important our relationships are with each other, and how you never know when you might be a hero yourself.
Giving appreciation to the everyday heroes, no matter the size of their heroics, is a simple deed that anyone can carry out. These books are only a few examples of different summer reads that can show you, and those around you, the good deeds that are done each and every day.