Nikki Powergloves a Hero is Born
Author: David Estes
Nikki Nickerson is a nine-year old who is at a loss this summer holiday because her best friend Spencer is out of town, she doesn't like doing "girl stuff", and the boys won't let her do "boy stuff" with them. I found this author's going out of his way to establish the young girl's tomboy cred a bit overdone. Plus I really didn't like how dependent this girl was made to be on her best friend, especially since her best friend sounded like a jerk. He inveigles himself into becoming her side-kick and when he acknowledges her supremacy it's with the words "Big-Boss-Man", not "Big Boss Woman" which was annoying. He likes to use pet names which he ad-libs for Nikki, and I'm sorry but these were tedious in the extreme, and just plain stupid. They became really irritating, really fast, and were not remotely funny.
Spencer is actually a complete disaster and I think it was an awful plotting decision to make Nikki so dependent upon him. It was unnecessary and abusive of women when you get right down to it. even a nine-year-old needs a guy to validate her? Shame on the author. Can this young girl not stand on her own feet and have her own adventure without having to have this kid act pretty much like a father figure to her? It was weird and uncalled for, especially when we were repeatedly told how smart he was, yet were shown that he really didn't behave like he was. Masculinity does not equal smarts and femininity does not equal dumb, yet it seems like this is the lesson that's being foisted onto middle-graders here.
That gripe aside, the story wasn't too bad in parts, although I all-too-often had mixed feelings about Nikki. There were times when she could be endearing and other times when she was a little jerk herself. For example, when they were testing out the powers of her gloves, she more than once did bad things to Spencer, like turning herself into a lion and scaring him, and like tying his shoelaces together so he falls over. You can have a girl being a tomboy without actually turning her into a boy - especially one who is a troublemaker.
The story begins with Nikki walking out in the woods, and her little dog, too. She discovers a weird creature which she later learns is a Weeble. It looks like a cross between a porcupine and a beaver, but other than this introduction, this creature plays very little part in the story. It made me wonder why it was ever included, especially since Weeble is a proprietary name (they wobble but they don't fall down, you know!).
But anyway, the "Weeble" runs off down this weird path in the woods which Nikki has never seen before. It leads her to a chest containing several pairs of differently colored and designed gloves. She learns that these are magical gloves and if she wears them, they give her super powers indicated by the particular design on the gloves. One pair might allow her to fly, another to become invisible, another to impersonate someone, another to turn herself into an animal, another to manufacture ice, another for fire, or lightning, and so on.
Nikki evidently can't cope with this by herself and has to put her life into the wise hands of Spencer, who luckily is coming back early from his trip out of town. He immediately takes charge of this lost girl and tells her what to do. They test and catalog all the gloves and then hurry home to design a super hero costume for her. Meanwhile, her nemesis shows up in the shape of Jimmy, who has magical boots which do for him the same kind of things which the gloves do for Nikki. We quickly learn he can fly and teleport, and he can make himself very strong.
To her credit, Nikki sets herself to putting right the things she screwed-up when she accidentally called up a really damaging thunderstorm, and then sets about developing a costume, and is once again completely overrun by Spencer Quick, who pretty much designs it for her. Finally she gets the chance to show her super hero skills, in her new costume.
A lot of the references in this book seemed more aimed at people the author's own age rather than at nine-year-olds. And Spider-Man isn't "Spiderman" - if you're going to write book about a super hero, at least get the comic book references right!
“…he saw a flying shape appear on the horizon. It was moving so fast it was only a blur. Good girl, he thought, Nikki was giving the cameras plenty of time to capture her on film…”
How does this make any sense at all?! I'm sorry but the domination of a nine-year old girl by a jerk of a nine-year old boy for me destroyed anything this writer might have been trying to do. I cannot recommend it.