Meet Portico “Stuntboy” Reeves
His parents know him as Portico Reeves, but his super not so secret identity is “Stuntboy.” When Portico is himself, he sometimes gets the “frets.” How could he not? Portico has to deal with bullying from Herbert Singletary the Worst and with his parents’ escalating fights as they move to separate apartments.
Stuntboy doesn’t have time for the “frets” because he’s busy performing wacky stunts to protect the diverse cast of characters living in the Skylight Gardens apartment building. His superpower is “Keeping other superheroes safe, so they can save the world.” But first, he needs to save himself.
Fortunately, he’s got help from Zola, his best friend and meditation coach, as well as Herbert Singletary the Worst (who becomes Herbert the Not So Bad After All).
This Graphic Novel’s Superpowers
Stuntboy, In the Meantime, is intended for middle grade readers, but upper elementary school readers will enjoy it too. The graphic format and superhero-style illustrations are engaging and accessible. And while difficult issues (anxiety, bullying, and divorce) are addressed, the novel provides the perfect blend of serious and laugh-out-loud moments. Here are a few of its superpowers:
• Many readers will relate to Portico and his “frets.” Kids have a lot to be anxious about in today’s world, and they will see themselves in this timely graphic novel.
• In true Jason Reynolds’ style, Stuntboy, In the Meantime, tackles hard issues with heart and humor. The serious moments are expertly balanced with jokes, running gags, and periodic commercial breaks. These breaks in the drama give readers an opportunity to breathe.
• The illustrations are dynamic, using a wide variety of elements to enhance the story and keep readers engaged. The coloration is also used to effectively reflect the storyline, switching between muted and vibrant palettes. Even the episodes of Super Space Warriors have their own special vibe.
Let Stuntboy, In the Meantime, Show You a Few Stunts
Fortunately, there are a lot of wonderful (free) resources for Stuntboy, In the Meantime, to help teachers and librarians use this book in the classroom and book clubs.
- Simon & Schuster has a free reading group guide with discussion questions and activities.
- The Scottish Book Trust offers another free resource, Read Woke: Stuntboy, In the Meantime, with activity ideas to support classroom use.
- Flip (a free app where educators create safe, online groups for students to express their ideas asynchronously in short video, text, and audio messages) has a wonderful video interview with Jason Reynolds where he talks about Stuntboy, In the Meantime, shares his personal experience with anxiety, and answers questions from kids all over the world.
- Students can write their own adventure by answering questions about the elements of an action-packed story with this worksheet, think about the everyday superheroes all around us with this worksheet, or articulate what gives them the “Frets” with this worksheet.
Stuntboy, In the Meantime, received the ALA Schneider Family Book Award best middle grades honor title (2022). Starred reviews were given by Booklist, The Horn Book Magazine, Kirkus, and Publishers Weekly.
Ready for More Super Graphic Novels?
Check out the graphic novel, New Kid by Jerry Craft. Seventh grader Jordan Banks loves drawing cartoons. But instead of art school, his parents send him to a prestigious private school where Jordan is one of a few kids of color in his entire grade. Soon Jordan finds himself torn between two totally different worlds, not really fitting in either. Find out if Jordan is able to navigate his new school, keep his neighborhood friends, and most importantly be true to himself.
You might also like the graphic memoir, El Deafo: Superpower Edition! (Abrams, 2020) by Cece Bell. This funny and touching graphic memoir chronicles Cece’s hearing loss at a young age and her subsequent experiences with the Phonic Ear, a powerful but awkward hearing aid she wore to school. The Phonic Ear enables Cece to hear (sometimes more than she is supposed to) but it is also isolating. Eventually, Cece finds her place in the world, harnessing the power of the Phonic Ear and discovering her superhero alter ego, “El Deafo, Listener for All.” Check out the animated miniseries on Apple TV+.
And of course, I highly recommend The First Cat in Space Ate Pizza (Katherine Tegen Books, 2022) written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Shawn Harris, “the most important work of literature ever published.”*
*about a cat in space eating pizza.