Early Chapter Book Review: Pedro – First Grade Hero

A multicultural cast for the very youngest of chapter book readers.

Pedro: First Grade Hero by Fran Manushkin, Illustrated by Tammie Lyon.
Picture Window Books, Capstone, 2016.
Early chapter book fiction, 90 pages + 5 pages of bonus material.
Lexile: Pedro Goes Buggy – 310L
Pedro’s Big Goal – 250L
Pedro’s Mystery Club – 330L
Pedro for President – 320L
AR Level:  Pedro Goes Buggy – 1.9
Pedro’s Big Goal – 1.9
Pedro’s Mystery Club – 2.3
Pedro for President – 2.2
All worth 0.5 points each.
NOTE: This early chapter book is a compilation of the first four Pedro books.

Pedro is a hard worker who loves to have fun too.  He plays soccer, solves mysteries, collects bugs, and even runs for class president, all with his best friends Katie and JoJo.

I got this book at Target because after reading this article, I changed my buying habits there.  My local store recently cut way back on books, so I like to encourage them by buying something every month or two.  Ever since reading that article, I make a point of buying practically ANY diverse books that turn up at Target, doing my little bit to tell them that diversity matters to their customers.  I’ve gotten an interesting variety of books.

Pedro: First Grade Hero by Fran Manushkin, Illustrated by Tammie Lyon.

This particular book I had no familiarity with.  In fact, the majority of books elementary school teachers and librarians buy are published by Scholastic.  This particular book was published by Capstone Press, a big name in direct-to-schools publishing.  I’m certainly familiar with them, but since, like many schools, mine is too poor to buy from them, I am not familiar with their lineup.

This book was originally four short books that have been combined into a collection of four short stories.  It is similar to Little Shaq in presentation and style (high-quality), but marketed at an even younger audience.  This book has pictures on every single page.  I’m not entirely sure why this book was subtitled “First Grade Hero” as that risks alienating all of the second and third graders reading at this level.  While it is obviously an elementary school book, there is nothing in the actual text or pictures to indicate a specific grade level.

Ever since becoming aware of the #ownvoices movement, one of the first things I do upon reading a new children’s book is check if the author or illustrator are people of color or otherwise representative of the diverse spectrum that their book is (hopefully) portraying.  Unfortunately in this case, the series is written and illustrated by white women.  However, I was still impressed with the portrayals of people of color.

Apparently this book is the first in a new spin-off series; Pedro originally appeared as a supporting character in the Katie Woo series.  Katie’s two best friends are Pedro (Latino) and JoJo (African-American). A boy named Roddy (white) is the class bully.  There are also a number of supporting or background characters, many of whom are white, but some of whom are people of color.

Pages 30 and 31 of Pedro: First Grade Hero (from Pedro’s Big Goal)

The teacher Miss Winkle is blonde, but soccer coach Mr. Rush is African-American, and Pedro’s dad plays an important role in several of the stories.  I always look for people of color in authority roles, because too many children’s books (even diverse ones) send the subtle message that teachers, doctors, and other professionals can only be white.

The book also subtly defies gender roles.  Pedro’s two best friends are girls, and they can do anything he can.  There is a nice moment when he defends his friend’s ability to do anything even at the risk of losing an important position himself.

Pedro is a very moral, kind and thoughtful boy.  It’s nice to see a children’s book series about the everyday concerns of a Latino boy.  While #ownvoices or a venture away from the middle-class suburban setting would be even better, realistically it may take the long-term work of everyone, including white allies to convince mainstream publishing that diversity matters.


Author: colorfulbookreviews

I work in a library by day and parent the rest of the time. I am passionate about good books representing the full spectrum of human diversity for every age group and reading level. This blog is my attempt to help parents, educators, and librarians find the best children's books authored by or featuring characters of color.

7 thoughts on “Early Chapter Book Review: Pedro – First Grade Hero”

  1. Thank you so much for your thoughtful review of my Pedro stories. I really appreciate it, and I, too, am buying from Target. (I bought new pj’s online yesterday.) I’m curious to know what Target location you saw Pedro at? I’m excited to be there! Thanks again for taking the time to consider my books so carefully.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They’re at more than one Target in Southeastern Wisconsin (if you want the exact locations I can email you). Actually, we enjoyed Pedro so much I went back and picked up a copy of Katie Woo and Friends and another Capstone book, Sofia Martinez: My Vida Loca by Jacqueline Jules. Our local Target has also sold out of Pedro books. I’m glad you enjoyed my review! Thank you for taking the time to read it and comment.


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