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What's My Superpower?

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Nalvana feels like all of her friends have some type of superpower. She has friends with super speed (who always beat her in races), friends with super strength (who can dangle from the monkey bars for hours), and friends who are better than her at a million other things. Nalvana thinks she must be the only kid in town without a superpower. But then her mom shows Nalvana that she is unique and special—and that her superpower was right in front of her all along.

29 pages, Hardcover

First published June 21, 2017

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About the author

Aviaq Johnston

16 books51 followers
Aviaq Johnston is a young Inuk author from Igloolik, Nunavut. Her debut novel Those Who Run in the Sky was released in the spring of 2017. In 2014, she won first place in the Aboriginal Arts and Stories competition for her short story “Tarnikuluk,” which also earned her a Governor General’s History Award. Aviaq is a graduate of Nunavut Sivuniksavut, and she has a diploma in Social Service Work from Canadore College. Aviaq loves to travel and has lived in Australia and Vietnam. She spends most of her time reading, writing, studying, and procrastinating. She goes back and forth between Iqaluit, Nunavut, and Ottawa, Ontario.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 46 reviews
Profile Image for Betsy.
Author 8 books2,751 followers
August 2, 2017
I credit Booger Beard.

I will explain.

While many children’s librarians will tell you that they have strived to make their book collections diverse and inclusive, they have always been hampered by what was being published in a given year. Nowhere is this more evident than when it comes to fun and funny books. Since #ownvoices and diversity are serious topics, they have been treated with great care and respect by authors and illustrators over the years. But as with anything, if you hand children meaningful, serious, heartfelt stories over and over and over and over, they’re going to get antsy. I mean, where’s the fun? After a while, they may begin to wonder why all the books about Jewish kids are about the Holocaust while all the African-American children either live during periods of slavery or the Civil Rights Era. Some books covering these topics are necessary, but do all of them have to? It’s really only been recently that’s we’ve seen children’s literature embrace diverse silliness. The aforementioned Booger Beard by “Vinny” Navarette features a Latino kid with a disgusting talent. Jake the Fake takes the notebook novel style of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and gives it a black protagonist. And then there are books like What’s My Superpower? by Aviaq Johnson. Written by a picture book debut Inuk author, the story concentrates on a kid with a penchant for superhero abilities in a contemporary Inuit community. Put another way, it’s a book kids will clamor to read, even as they learn terms like “anaana”, “inuksuk”, and “panik”. That’s its superpower.

If Nalvana knows one thing and one thing alone it is this: Superpowers are real. Not only that, but she’s quite certain that if she can just crack the code behind her own super powered abilities, she’d be a bonified hero, no question. Trouble is, Nalvana has a much easier time determining superpowers in her friends. At school she’s quick to inform ultra-fast Davidee that he has super speed. And Maata who can jump farther than anyone off of a swing? That’s flight in the making. Joanasie can build anything and Adamie is practically half fish, but what’s so special about Nalvana? The answer, as it turns out, is as clear as the nose on her face.

Good old superheroes. In the 21st century (even more so than the 20th, I’d argue) they are our shared myths. In a world where our news feed is filled with reports of violence, terror, and less than entirely capable world leaders, superheroes fill us with a shared sense of comfort. That’s cross cultural (though the studios are taking their own sweet time diversifying our cinema). Part of what I love so much about “What’s My Superpower?” is that it begins by simply assuming that the child readers know what superheroes are, know what superpowers are, and share with Nalvana a desire to be special in some way. Other picture books for kids have done similar tie-ins. For example, the lovely Lucia the Luchadora by Cynthia Leonor Garza, illustrated by Alyssa Bermudez, did a top-notch job of equating superheroes with luchadores and luchadoras. This book eschews such a direct one-to-one comparison, content merely to show how an overwhelming need to be “super” in some way is a universal condition.

For all that, the book actually doesn’t appear to see itself as a purveyor of cross-cultural understanding. There is no extensive Afterword telling kids what daily life would be like for Nalvana. It contains an Inuktitut Glossary of only four words. There aren’t any maps, nor even a mention of where Nalvana lives in the text (the story says she lives “in the very middle of a small town where winter is always longer than summer”). What is there is quite a bit subtler. As an author, Johnston does a good job of incorporating Nalvana’s daily reality into a picture book format. Child readers that are not a part of the Arctic community will come across mentions of snowmobiling goggles, inuksuk, parents that are carvers, etc. All these details flesh out the book’s sense of place, never hijacking the narrative. Nalvana lives in a 21st century Inuk household. Kinda makes you want to exchange this title for every picture book that still comes out showing the Inuit as “Eskimos” in igloos (and trust me, those books are far from gone).

What’s My Superpower? is just the latest publication from the publisher Inhabit Media. Described on their own website as an Inuit-owned publishing company that works, “to ensure that Arctic voices are heard and that they have the opportunity to contribute to Canadian literature,” they distinguish themselves from other small publishers above and beyond their core mission. The important thing to remember with Inhabit is the degree to which they work to have the best possible illustrations accompanying their books. To do this, they tap a wide range of artists. Tim Mack is the latest of these, and from what I can tell this is his picture book debut. An artist whose style replicates animators most closely, it stands to reason that a man comfortable penning monsters, aliens, and robots in his spare time could bring life to a girl with a yen for superhero antics. The funny thing is that Mack’s art is really reigned in here. We don’t see imaginary foes or flights of fancy. Even when the other kids display their “superhero” abilities, they’re realistic (and sometimes we see them after the action has taken place, which is a bit peculiar). One wonders how different the book could have been if Mack had been given free range to really let go. As it stands, he does a good job encompassing the surprisingly large amounts of text per page within his art and his characters belie their simplicity by exhibiting a range of emotions. It’s a solid start to what could well become an illustrious career. Let’s just hope Mack is allowed to get a little wilder in his future children’s book endeavors.

I’m not a huge fan of pat endings. At the finale of this book, Nalvana’s mom lets her daughter know that making people feel good about themselves is her daughter’s superpower. Nalvana accepts this explanation readily, and it’s a sweet moment, if a bit on the nose. There are plenty of kids out there who’d trade that super ability for X-ray vision or invisibility any day of the week. Now here’s the million-dollar question: Can you name this particular book’s superpowers? Any ideas? If I had to guess I’d say it has the ability to defeat stereotypes, crush misconceptions, and elevate the truth. I wouldn’t call it a perfect book but I honestly feel that kids need a wide array of diverse titles. They need historical seriousness as well as goofball delight. Johnston and Mack squarely place this book in the latter category. Kids will be all the more grateful that they did.

For ages 4-6.
Profile Image for Barbara.
13.1k reviews271 followers
July 22, 2017
In this reassuring book featuring a young Inuk girl, readers will find plenty with which to relate. Nalvana loves the idea of superheroes and is curious about what superpower she might have. As she goes about her days, she identifies the special talents or powers of those around her and wonders if she might have some of those. Some of her friends are able to run swiftly, almost fly in their swings, and carve beautiful ice sculptures, but Nalvana can do none of these. After spending so long trying to find what she does well, she is a bit despondent until her mother points out what she is especially good at doing. Readers will smile when they reach that page as this special power is a great one to have since it builds up others as well as its possessor. I liked the fact that the story is set in a rural area, and that Nalvana loves where she lives instead of wishing to move somewhere else. No matter what someone's culture or upbringing, it is easy to like Nalvana and perhaps follow her example. The illustrations feature a cheerful girl with a loving, supportive mother.
445 reviews19 followers
January 20, 2019
I enjoyed this story quite a bit. It has interesting illustrations, and it is a realistic, yet humourous story. I wondered as I read if the number of words per page were too high for the students that I would think are most likely to sign it out (gr. K-2).

While playing and attending school in her small town, which I think is in Iqaluit, Nalvanna notices some of the abilities of her friends and believes they have superpowers. She spends much of the book trying to find her own superpower.

In the conclusion, her mother is able to make her feel really good about herself and tell her about something that makes her special.
Profile Image for Chinook.
2,260 reviews19 followers
February 11, 2019
I really love the way this book normalizes life in the Arctic - it’s clear from the details that she lives up north, but it’s not blatantly stated. I also liked the way the main character connects the idea of superheroes with superpowers with talents and special skills.

I admit, I wish the little girl had found a special skill of her own that was as quirky as some of her friends’ were, like holding her breath longest underwater or swinging so high it was like flying. As sweet as the idea of being talented at finding the talents in others, it was a bit of anletdown for me.
Profile Image for Kathy.
2,998 reviews7 followers
December 4, 2017
Nalvana is on the look out for superpowers, and she keeps finding it in others, but what about her own? This is a great kid-believable story of finding out what you're good at all on its own, but is even better because of the setting: it is set in the far north "where the winter is always longer than summer", with occasional Inuk words thrown in (a short glossary is included).
Profile Image for Elizabeth.
1,526 reviews51 followers
June 28, 2018
What's My Superpower? is a genuinely delightful read. I've read a lot of Inhabit Media content, it's generally pretty great, and this is no exception.

Aviaq Johnston tells the story of a young girl named Nalvana living in the Arctic in a small town who is convinced superpowers are one hundred percent real. Her mother never tries to stimy that belief, Nalvana just goes about trying to figure out what her superpower is. She sees all of her friends with superpowers (running fast and sculpting and all sorts of things), and wonders what makes her feel special. The story is incredibly sweet but still a lot of fun, and the illustrations are adorable.

I definitely recommend this one for kids of all ages.
Profile Image for Michelle (FabBookReviews).
1,052 reviews36 followers
March 10, 2018

What's My Superpower?, written by author Aviaq Johnston (Those Who Run in the Sky) and illustrated by Tim Mack, is an utterly charming, wonderfully optimistic story about one young girl's search for her superpower and what happens along her journey.

The picture book centers around Nalvana who wears "a yellow cape made from a blanket and a pair of snowmobiling goggles resting on her head" everywhere she goes. A seemingly adventurous, buoyant person, Nalvana wonders about the possible answer to a rather big question: what is her superpower? As Nalvana goes about trying to discover her superpower, however, she begins to recognize some of her classmates' impressive superpowers! For example, one day at the playground, Nalvana sees her friend Maata swinging high on the swing set and suddenly fly to her landing! Maata can fly! On another day, Nalvana sees her cousin Joanasie building an inuksuk at the the top of a hill. While talking to Joanasie about all the things he can make, she tells him that his superpower must be being able to build "whatever he can think of"! Joanasie can build anything in the world! But...what about Nalvana herself? What if she is the only one left without a superpower? As Nalvana recounts Maata's, Joanasie's and other encounters and happy discoveries of friends' superpowers with her mom, a happy realization is made about what Nalvana's pretty incredible superpower might just be.

Overall, what a lovely, heart-warming picture book! Nalvana's story is one of sharing kindness, holding onto one's own kernels of hopefulness and determination, and the excitement in finding your own happy and cool discovery along the way. Mack's illustrations are strong and vibrant with their unique yellow and green-focused palette; it is interesting, graphic novel-like artwork that works so well to compliment and enhance Johnston's winsome, wholly approachable storytelling style. What's My Superpower? also contains an Inuktitut Glossary at the back, so readers and audiences will be engaging and learning even further as they go!

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Inhabit Media in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.
Profile Image for Storywraps.
1,968 reviews29 followers
December 11, 2017
Nelvana is a sweet, feisty young girl who lives in a small village in the Arctic with her mother. Every day she dons her cape and some rustic snowmobiling goggles and transforms into a super hero. But wait... superheroes have magical powers don't they? Nelvana can't pinpoint what power she possesses. What's hers she ponders?

She envies her friends Davidee who "can run faster than a Ski-Doo, Maata who swings so high she can almost fly up to the the sky and Adamie who can hold his breath underwater longer than anyone else, just to name a few. Poor Nelvana she longs to have a superpower all her own. Does she even possess one she wonders? She becomes frustrated and despondent trying to search for the magic inside of her ... what is her special power?

Finally, in tears, she crawls up on her loving Mother's lap who tells her daughter she thinks she knows exactly what Nelvana needs to hear. "Your superpower is making people feel good about themelves." It is her unique and special power that was right before her all along. Contented at long last Nalvana smiles and responds, "I think that's a good superpower to have. "

The illustrations are simply wonderful. They are full of action, emotion and very kid-friendly. The author has included a small Inuktitut Glossary at the back for the readers consisting of four words. I love that the hero is a girl touting imagination, spunk and especially kindness to all her friends. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would heartily recommend it.
Profile Image for Amy.
187 reviews
January 15, 2019
I really like the concept of this book, that every child has a special skill or "superpower" to share with the world. I also liked the inclusion of Inuktitut words and the glossary for them in the back, however I felt that more context was needed -- I started to realize that the characters were Inuit based on the inclusion of these words as well as some of the character names, but I don't feel that kids would make this connection on their own. If I get a chance to read a story to myself before story time, I can introduce such connections, but I don't always get a chance to do so (particularly with Blue Spruce titles, that I know I'll be reading regardless of my personal feelings).

The only contextual clue given at the start is that the main character lives in a place where "winter is longer than the summer." Which, if you ask me, could be almost anywhere in Canada!

Other than that, I found the story quite wordy, and lacking the flow that makes for a good read-aloud. I found myself stumbling over certain parts - and not even the parts with Inuktitut words - even on the second read-through.

I'll reiterate that the concept is great - it fits in well with the popular "growth mindset" educational theme.
Profile Image for Storytime With Stephanie.
350 reviews7 followers
March 28, 2018
Many superheroes have alter egos, the people they are when they are not out fighting evil. That is how we know superheroes but what if their superpowers were out in the open for everyone to see. What if everyone knew they were superheroes and they were celebrated for it?

In What's My Superpower by Aviaq Johnston and Tim Mack, Nalvana recognizes superpowers in all of her friends. There's Davidee with super speed and Maata who can fly so high she reaches the clouds, and Joanasie who has the power to build anything he can imagine. It seems all of Nalvana's friends have super powers but her. So what is her superpower? In this beautiful story about seeing the differences in each other and what makes us unique and special, Aviaq Johnston shows us that we all have superpowers. The little things we do everyday make us superheroes to someone. It's such a wonderful story about embracing each other and recognizing the superhero in everyone. Aviaq Johnston includes manyl Inuktitut words adding the beauty of the story. Tim Mack's illustrations are vivid and captivating making What's My Superpower? a book that just jumps off the shelves.
Profile Image for Caitlin.
25 reviews
November 7, 2020
This book is appropriate for grade levels Pre K-1. In the book, Nalvana questions whether or not she could have super powers. Nalvana feels that everyone around her has superpowers because they are good at things, but she doesn't know her superpower. Nalvana's mother tells her that her superpower is making people feel good about themselves. Nalvana then discovers her superpower. I personally love this book as it teaches children that everyone can have superpower or be good at something that others may not be. It teaches children about differences and to discover their strengths and weaknesses. This book not only teaches children to be confident in themselves, but also teaches them to seek out for answers when they have questions about themselves or others. In the classroom the teacher can come up with an activity where the students can talk with their classmates and come up with their own superpower. The students can then draw a photo of their superpower and act it out in the front of the class, in groups, with a partner, or in dramatic play.
31 reviews
April 30, 2019
Some things I loved:

1. The names! As a librarian at very white schools filled with kids named Logan and Addison and Mikayla, it was nice to see the diversity of the characters portrayed so completely, right down to names like Maata, Davidee, Adamie, Joanasie, and, of course, Nalvana. I also appreciated the use of some Inuktitut words, though I feel like I failed in drawing attention and explaining them to my audience.

2. Of course, Nalvana's revelation about her own superpower was excellent and definitely stuck with the kids I read it to. I love the message that a superpower is not necessarily found in our physical abilities and strengths, but in how we treat other people. Such a beautiful message.

3. The illustrations.

Some things I didn't love:

1. The ending. It felt very very abrupt, which is why it really only earned 3, maybe 3.5 stars for me.

I found the story worked great for students around grades K-3, but felt a little juvenile for older kids.
Profile Image for Molly.
2,324 reviews
September 14, 2020
Nalvana feel like her friends all have some type of superpower. One can run fast, one can swing high and another can build things. She thinks she might be the only one without a superpower. Her mother helps her see that she actually does have a superpower that she had along. I really enjoyed this lovely story about building each other up and learning to appreciate ones own skills. I also like that it features a girl living in the arctic without being about living in the arctic.

I sought this book out after it was featured on the podcast "Julie's Library" with Julie Andrews and her daughter Emma Walton Hamilton.
Profile Image for Kelsey.
2,312 reviews55 followers
January 23, 2020
Age: Kindergarten-2nd grade
Identity, Author and characters: Inuit
Identity, Illustrator: Canadian

A friendly, adventurous girl named Nalvana is on the hunt for her superpower. She is always quick to recognize and celebrate the superpower talents of all her friends but can't seem to identify her own until her mother tells her the positive effect that her kind words have on her friends.

Lots of dialogue, an upbeat tempo, and bold illustrations make this a winner for reading aloud to an early elementary classroom.
Profile Image for Gracie Pearson.
44 reviews
November 11, 2020
This was such a sweet story that I feel a lot of young children can relate too. The illustrations and world choice made this book easy to read and stay engaged with. I especially loved how the setting and culture of Nalvana because I have never seen a book that had a such a dual area as the main setting. Not only will this book make any classroom library more inclusive and diverse but it can also be a book every students can identify with at the same time.
Profile Image for Sheri.
2,200 reviews7 followers
June 1, 2018
Nalvana an Inuk girl from Canada wants to find her superpower that makes her special among the children in her small town. She tries a number of adventures and watches as other classmates do things that she believes make them special (flying, race fast, carving ,swimming, and Nalvana is still searching until her mother asks her to think what her power is and she does.
Profile Image for Kevin W.
97 reviews2 followers
November 22, 2018
Points for the casual diversity in the book, but otherwise average. The book spends a long time on its message and a limited amount of time on its story. Bigger questions are lurking between the lines of the text, though not in the otherwise pleasant artwork and are not explored with much depth at all. Kids can handle more.
Profile Image for Barbra.
1,209 reviews4 followers
August 3, 2017
Nalvana thinks all her friends have superpowers, super speeds, and super skills and encourages them to be the best. However when she thinks about herself she wonders if she has anything special. Her mom reminds her that she is always good at making her friends feel better.
Profile Image for Sheri Radford.
Author 9 books18 followers
January 6, 2018
This beautifully illustrated picture book tells a sweet tale about a girl trying to figure out what she's good at. My one small quibble is that she doesn't try anything for very long before giving up and moving on to something else.
Profile Image for Celeste.
329 reviews42 followers
October 10, 2018
A sweet book, but I think that in reality a child who runs around with a cape and believes (or imagines) that her friends can fly and run with super speed is unlikely to think "making people feel good about themselves" is a super power.
Profile Image for AbsentLibrarian.
248 reviews5 followers
October 26, 2018
Perfect for helping kids realize their own individual superpowers and encouraging them to lift up and encourage one another in their unique talents and abilities. Could lead easily into an activity for displaying their own activity thorough art or a green screen picture.
Profile Image for Sasha Boersma.
821 reviews31 followers
November 9, 2018
Must read for my CHLD students and alumni! Such a cute book about finding what makes you special. I love that such an everyday challenge for children was placed in Nunavut with Inuit context.

Lovely story, beautiful illustrations.
February 28, 2021
Un album avec des illustrations colorées et dynamiques qui nous présente Nalvana, une jeune inuit, qui est à la recherche de son superpouvoir.

Une histoire simple et inspirante qui nous rappelle que nous avons tous un superpouvoir!
9,635 reviews23 followers
April 17, 2018
Thumper spends the day with his family playing in the leaves and meeting other animal friends. board book form and simple neough for toddlers
Displaying 1 - 30 of 46 reviews

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