While there are lots of media tie-in books for beginning readers that suit this summer's theme, many parents (including me!) are not crazy about books that promote TV shows and movies. On this list are a dozen great books featuring community helpers, unlikely heroes, a couple of detectives and regular kids dressed up as superheroes - without a licensed character in sight.
- Extraordinary Warren: A Super Chicken by Sarah Dillard
This easy reader in graphic format follows the adventures of a chicken named Warren who, in an effort to become Chicken Supreme, hero, nearly becomes Chicken Supreme, dinner! (This book was a 2014 Cybils finalist in the Easy Reader category.)
- Wedgieman: A Hero is Born by Charise Mericle Harper, illustrated by Bob Shea
Veggieman, a superhero who wants kids to eat and enjoy vegetables is given an unfortunate new name by a group of kids who love toilet humor.
- When Pigs Fly by Lisa Wheeler, illustrated by Frank Ansley
Fitch is nervous about showing up to school on Hero Day dressed as Timberwolf when everyone else in the class is a fan of Hyper Hog. When he and his friend Chip actually become heroes, however, they realize that helping others feels good no matter what they wear.
- Super Fly Guy! by Tedd Arnold
This second installment in the Fly Guy series follows Buzz and Fly Guy to the school cafeteria, where Fly Guy saves the day!
- The Fire Cat by Esther Averill
This classic book for beginning readers tells of Pickles the cat, who strives to be a great feline firefighter.
- Oliver the Mighty Pig by Jean van Leeuwen, illustrated by Ann Schweninger
Oliver Pig is thrilled when he receives a Mighty Pig cape, which gives him the power to accomplish all kinds of household missions, from setting the table, to emptying the trash. When his cape goes missing, however, he fears his powers are gone for good.
- Sparky and Tidbit by Kathryn O. Galbraith, illustrated by Gerald Kelley
When Sparky receives a K-9 badge for his birthday, he is excited to become a hero, but has trouble finding a problem to solve. When he finds that Tidbit, a puppy is struggling with learning to read, he decides to take on the challenge of helping him.
- Young Cam Jansen and the Dinosaur Game by David A. Adler, illustrated by Susanna Natti
In this and subsequent titles in the Young Cam Jansen series, Cam uses her photographic memory and deductive reasoning skills to save the day for friends who have mysteries in need of solving.
- Nate the Great by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat, illustrated by Marc Simont
In this beginner's noir story, Nate the Great solves his first of many cases, all of which take place in his neighborhood.
- The Best Teacher in Second Grade by Katherine Kenah, illustrated by Abby Carter
Luna adores her second grade teacher, Mr. Hopper, because he champions her creative idea for family night when no one else in the class likes it.
- The Littlest Leaguer by Syd Hoff
The smallest boy on the little league team, Harold has trouble keeping up during games - until an important game comes along, and Harold proves he can make a big impact.
- Molly the Brave and Me by Jane O'Connor, illustrated by Sheila Hamanaka
Beth idolizes her brave friend Molly, but in a dangerous situation, Beth proves to be the hero that gets them both safely home.