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Friday, April 20, 2012

Zero the Hero, written by Joan Holub and illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld. Henry Holt, 2012. $18.99 ages 6 and up

"HEY! Aren't you a Froot Loop? I love those!"
"No, I'm Zero the Hero!"
"Um, yeah, I don't think so. Are you a donut?"
"I've got it! You are the letter 'O'!"
"No! How many times do I have to tell you?"

It is the number six asking the questions, and Zero is pretty exasperated! None of the numbers seem to find him the least bit useful. They have some learning to do about the hero that he truly is and the important role he plays when it comes to numbers.

Zero loves who he is and flaunts it by wearing a red cape and a black mask. Who wouldn't be impressed? The numbers one to nine, it seems. They feel that he has no place among them and they tease him unmercifully. Despite that, he keeps his head up and remains secure that he has a real place in the math world. He admits he's not much good at addition or subtraction, and has no role whatsoever in division. And multiplication? Why...there he threatens extinction. The counting numbers flee, as Zero makes an unpleasant discovery about himself:

"A real superhero wouldn't multiply his friends into nothingness. That's the kind of stuff only an evil villain would do. Could it be that he wasn't a hero after all?"

And so he rolled away, downhearted and of no use to any of his friends.

It isn't long until the counting numbers realize that Zero does make a difference for them in the work they do. If you are trying to figure out how much food you have and you have have five apples, two bananas, and three oranges, what is one to do for an correct answer? Hmmm!!

They can't play round-off, they feel odd without the caped crusader and when they realize they are being stalked by Roman numeral soldiers, they are in big trouble! Zero will not let his friends down and so he does what any super hero worth his salt would do. His solution is downright frightening and sends the Romans off at a run, trembling at his awesome power.

The asides are a riot. They will hold the attention of all readers through numerous visits. Tom Lichtenheld uses his trademark cartoon characters to entertain and enlighten...all the while engaging his audience in the tale being told.

Perfect...and funny, and educational, and worthy of your attention! 

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