How new book Superheroes aims to inspire a new generation - plus, read Stormzy's introduction!

Published on: 25 November 2021

Superheroes: Inspiring Stories of Secret Strength shares the tales of 50 iconic Brits to help inspire young readers.

We spoke to author Sophia Thakur and illustrator Denzell Dankwah about Superheroes, plus scroll down to read Stormzy's introduction to the book!

The front cover of Superheroes

We are really excited about your new book Superheroes: Inspiring Stories of Super Strength. What was the inspiration for the book?

Sophia: I think it just felt like the right time to start creating comics and celebratory books on Black people that are still living, doing amazing things.

There's no shortage of negative or oppressive portrayals of Black people in the curriculum and mainstream media. So we made this as a counterweight to remind and inspire the kids to become as excellent as those before them. Even more so!

We love the format – it looks really cool! What was important to you about the appearance of the book?

Denzell: I felt it was important for the illustrations to highlight the amazing feats that make every person in this book a Superhero. Pulling details common in comic books helped in visualising that, using lots of bright colours and making the book really visually appealing.

What do you hope children will learn from the book?

Sophia: I hope that kids read about these actors, weather presenters, chefs or scientists and feel validated in pursuing their passion as a potential career. I hope the book can bridge the gap between kids' dreams and reality, by protecting and inspiring their imagination.

Denzell: I hope anyone reading Superheroes can see that they can be great at whatever they're passionate about. If they keep trying, things will work out eventually.

Illustrations of Dina Asher-Smith and Mo Gilligan from Superheroes

Are there any other books out there you'd recommend to people interested in learning more about modern day Black heroes and heroines?

Denzell: Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Real-Life Tales of Black Girl Magic is a good one that would be sure to inspire young readers.

Did you have a favourite person who is included in Superheroes? Who did you love learning about?

Sophia: I loved writing about Joshua Buatsi. He's a boxer who puts his faith at the forefront of his career, and you rarely see that these days. It gave me confidence to stand up for what I believe in, despite how other people may look at you.

Denzell: I enjoyed learning about everyone in Superheroes, but one that really inspired me was Cece Philips. Cece is an artist who pursued her dream during the lockdowns.

Did you have a favourite book as a child? What was it, if so?

Sophia: I loved Scribbleboy by Philip Ridley. It stretched my imagination into this mystical world and I don't think it ever went back!

Denzell: I was always drawn to books with lots of illustrations - one I really liked was the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.

Illustrations of Michael Dapaah and Dr Anne-Marie from Superheroes

Read Stormzy's introduction to Superheroes

When I was younger, I used to MC in the school playground and in my local area, spitting with my friends and telling stories. Music has always been a huge part of my life, but at the time, I didn't understand that it was a talent – that it was my superpower and it made me unique.

Growing up in South London as a young Black man from an underprivileged background, there weren't many role models that I could aspire to be like.

There came a moment when that changed, and when I realised that I could turn my superpower into something extraordinary.

I was at home watching Channel U and saw other people that looked like me – artists making waves in the music scene and being successful. It was then that I was inspired to start my own journey.

I want this book to be for you what the old-school Channel U was for me. This book is packed full of amazing superheroes. We have rounded up some of the most talented individuals in their fields – from science to art, and fashion to food – all of whom have turned their special skill, their superpower, into something great.

I also want you to know that we are all superheroes. Each and every one of you has a special skill, a talent, a passion – a superpower – that is unique to you and makes you a superhero.

After reading this book, I hope you know you can achieve whatever you set your mind to. I believe it, and I want you to believe it too. The sky is the limit to what you can achieve, as long as you continue to remember how powerful you are.

- Stormzy