It was a typical Wednesday afternoon at the Hawthorne Library. There were a few families milling about the bookshelves and teens reading near the windows. The room was filled with the click-clacking of people at the computers.
Kai arrived at the library at two and met with Tracy, the youth services librarian. Most of the materials for the Comics and Heroes kit were already set up in the community room. There were crayons, markers, colored pencils, and stamps for decorating. Kids could color in superhero illustrations, draw comics, and design costumes for themselves. We even provided an enormous roll of Mylar that could be used to make capes, utility belts, or anything else the kids might think up. Although Kai had used this kit often throughout the month, today felt different-- special in a way. She wondered what this day would bring.
When the kids came in, Tracy had them sit in a group on the floor. Each of them ate a push-pop while she read “Hoot Owl Master of Disguise.” Afterward, we talked about other people who use disguises: people like superheroes!
Kai explained the different possible activities available, and the kids set to work. They were so excited! Some went immediately to make a cape. Others wanted to color a superhero. But most of them rushed to decorate and cut out a mask. We were fortunate enough to have an hour and a half with this one group of kids, so they were really able to expand their costume designs beyond what kids usually do.
A lot of kids began with the basics: cape, mask, arm bands. But with extra time, they started to improve the sophistication of their designs.
One kid really wanted to emulate The Flash, so he asked Kai to help him draw a lightning bolt that he then cut out and pasted to the top of his mask.
A friend later helped him tape a lightning bolt on to the front panel of his costume, along with a giant ‘F’ in red tape. Another kid knew from the beginning that he wanted to be Tiger Man, so instead of making a cape, he made claws out of the Mylar and tape them to his finger tips.
These two makers inspired a lot of kids to do the same. At first they were upset that people were copying them, but they soon realized what an honor it was for someone to like their idea so much that they wanted to do it.
In just over an hour, the transformation was complete. We no longer had a room of third graders, but twelve superheroes all with their own names and powers. They sparred with each other, shooting lasers from their eyes, making tornadoes from nothing, and calling on their sidekicks (often animals) to aide in their endeavors. As time went on, the heroes started forming alliances. One group was identifiable by a yellow sticker they each had.
When the time had come to clean up, the superheroes flew through the air picking up tape, crayons, markers, and glue.
One used his super strength to lift all the rolls of tape at once. Another used his speed to quickly, and very carefully, collect all the scissors. But the hero who made the biggest difference was the least like a superhero.
She made some masks, but did not wear any of them, and she did not make any other costume pieces. She identified as a regular person, but her ability to help was extraordinary. She organized the remaining sheets of paper into neat piles, and divided the markers from the colored pencils even though she could have just left them all in one container. She brought everything to one table to be packed away.
Although Kai was amazed by the transformation from kids to superheroes, she was especially grateful and impressed by this young lady. Just goes to show that not all heroes have super powers!