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Book Review: Stan Lee

August 24th, 2010 (10:09 am)

This review was written for my children's literature class, so it addresses some concerns from a more professional perspective than many of my earlier reviews have.

Miller, R. H. (2006). Stan Lee: Creator of Spider-Man. Farmington Hills, MI: KidHaven Press.

Stan Lee: Creator of Spider-Man is part of the KidHaven Press Inventors and Creators series, a series which introduces the lives of famous people to middle grade readers (Grades 4 - 8). The author, Raymond H. Miller, has written over 50 children’s nonfiction titles on various topics. While he is not an accredited Stan Lee expert, his experience in writing this type of book lends him some authority. The text, published in 2006, covers Stan Lee’s life from his birth until the 2000s, with up-to-date information about his current work. It focuses primarily on his career; sections about his childhood slant heavily towards how his childhood experiences influenced that career.

The book is clearly designed to provide an introduction to the life of one of the most famous writers in the history of comic books. The text is not overly complex, but it is not so simplistic as to bore or insult the intelligence of its intended audience. It does not present differing perspectives on Stan Lee’s life; it does, however, report conflicts objectively, simply stating the facts of situations like Lee’s lawsuit against Marvel rather than taking one side or the other in these matters.

The structure of the book is chronological; chapter titles and subtitles break up the text but do not reveal a great deal about the content that follows them. The book includes extensive reference aids, including a table of contents, a glossary, an index, endnotes which provide citations for quotes used in the text, a page of “For Further Exploration” recommendations, and photo credits. These serve as excellent examples for readers if they need to write biographical texts themselves.

Illustrations include photographs of Stan Lee in various situations, images of his influences (such as William Shakespeare) and experiences (such as chess, ping pong, and the bombing of Pearl Harbor), and scenes from movies based on his films. These are colorful with clear captions which add to the text’s meaning. There is one confusing illustration, a combined map of Manhattan Island and timeline which features characters from Stan Lee’s comic books. The text on this image, in comic-style bursts, is arranged in no discernible order.

Overall, this book is well-suited to its audience and purpose. The text is clear, the presentation is attractive, and it is a fine example of well-researched non-fiction.