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A (Super)Heroic Venture

Alum’s Children’s Books Empower Readers to Do Good

By Annie Krakower

Superheroes Club and Superheroes Club 2: A Celebration of Uniqueness book covers

Cover art courtesy of Madeleine Sherak; photo courtesy of Ray Joyce Photography and Cinematography

The “Superheroes Club” book series by Madeleine Sherak M. Ed. ’74, Ph.D. ’81 shows kids that “it’s not how you look, but what you do that makes you a superhero.”

What’s better than super strength, super speed and the ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound? For Madeleine Sherak M. Ed. ’74, Ph.D. ’81, it’s the power of helping others.

The longtime educator-turned-author spreads that message in her “Superheroes Club” children’s book series, with the latest installment, “Superheroes Club 2: A Celebration of Uniqueness,” being published tomorrow. Rather than just slapping a cape on the protagonist and adding an occasional “BAM!” or “POW!” to the illustrations, Sherak’s stories show youngsters that acting kindly is acting heroically.

Madeleine Sherak M. Ed. ’74, Ph.D. ’81“Part of it was empowering young people to develop their own confidence and independence so they can help others,” Sherak said. “If you notice what’s going on in schools today, it’s very challenging with bullying. How do you help them do something about it?”

Sherak knew she wanted to work with kids since junior high, going on to study education at City College in New York and earn a master’s in foundations of education and a doctorate in comparative education at UMD. She taught middle school math for a decade and moved on to supervising student-teachers, which she now does at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif.

No longer teaching full-time, Sherak began getting involved in entertainment, including through TV and film projects and, eventually, books.

“I asked myself, ‘What else could I do that I would enjoy and would also be something I’m passionate about?’” Sherak said. “I was particularly interested in writing a series which was values-based and could help children develop kindness and empathy.”

From there, she got some help from one of her 10 grandchildren, Lily. When the now-10-year old was in preschool, she befriended a classmate who couldn’t speak and, despite their differences, always included her in the play group.

“I wanted to encourage that kind of behavior and celebrate it,” Sherak said. “That’s what I try to do with my story.”

With her main character modeled after her granddaughter, Sherak created the “Superheroes Club,” where Lily leads a group dedicated to uplifting others, declaring, “It’s not how you look, but what you do that makes you a superhero.” Sherak’s other grandchildren share traits with characters throughout the series as well, like Alex, who is on the autism spectrum and has a service dog named Meatball, and Missy, who’s shy but extremely talented.

“I realized I had so many stories to tell about them and the world in which they are growing up,” Sherak said.

After forming the club in the first book, published in 2017 by My Bench Productions, the characters set out on a new mission in the second as they learn to embrace uniqueness. Midwest Book Review calls “Superheroes Club” “as fun and entertaining as it is effective in helping young readers to be inspired with respect to building ‘sharing and caring’ relationships with others.”

A third book is already in the works, and Sherak is developing another series called “The World According to Lucy” about a trio of dogs that tackle issues like sibling rivalry, adoption and family dynamics.

“I think that we all have the responsibility to make the world a better place,” Sherak said. “With regard to young people, they need to feel good about themselves. Each of them has that heroic potential within them to help others.”





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