• If you are citizen of an European Union member nation, you may not use this service unless you are at least 16 years old.

  • Stop wasting time looking for files and revisions. Connect your Gmail, DriveDropbox, and Slack accounts and in less than 2 minutes, Dokkio will automatically organize all your file attachments. Learn more and claim your free account.


Shadow Hero

Page history last edited by kay hones 1 year, 9 months ago

Book Annotations

The Shadow Hero

by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew

Annotation from CCBC Choices 2015

The origins of the 1940s comic book hero Green Turtle are imagined in the story of Hank, a young Chinese American man whose mother is desperate he become a superhero, even exposing him to toxic chemicals and other possible mutation-causing agents. This is one of the many moments of high humor in a graphic novel also packed with action, moments of pathos, and social commentary. It’s his humble father’s murder that finally gives Hank a superpower: It turns out one of the four spirits of China — a tortoise — possessed Hank’s father and moves on to Hank when the father dies. The tortoise becomes Hank’s mentor, although he’s as acerbic and droll as he is wise. Hank discovers gangster Ten Grand is at the bottom of his father’s death, but Ten Grand’s daughter, Red Center, complicates his plans for revenge. There is so much to appreciate about this work, from the humor and action to the seamless way racism, sexism and stereotypes are laid bare. As impressive as the story itself is the extensive note about the original Green Turtle comic, developed by a cartoonist named Chu Hing for publisher Rural Home during World War II. Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew look at the facts and rumors and discuss their own theory on how Hing fought back against his publisher’s refusal to allow him to openly depict Green Turtle as Chinese American. The entire original comic is then reproduced, racism and all, they note, as they encourage readers to make up their own minds about Hing’s intentions in this absolutely entertaining work that openly invites critical thinking. (Age 14 and older)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2015


Book Guides Lesson Plans 

THE SHADOW HERO – READING GROUP GUIDE About the Book: In the comics boom of the 1940s, a legend was born: the Green Turtle. But this mysterious masked crusader was hiding something more than your run-of-the-mill secret identity . . . The Green Turtle was the first Asian American superhero. The original Green Turtle comic only had a short run, but now Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew have revived the character, creating an origin story for a forgotten hero. For Discussion: The Shadow Hero is a graphic novel, a story told in words and pictures. How do you think this story would be told differently if it was a novel, with only words? How would it be different if it was a movie, with just pictures? Why does the author stress the importance of The Green Turtle being the first Asian superhero, and how does racism affect this story and its characters? Why does racism need to be addressed in literature? Is that answer the same one that you would give if you were answering this question in the 1940s, when the Green Turtle was originally created and when this story was set? Have you ever felt singled out or treated unfairly? How is that treatment similar to and different from racism? Hank’s mother is very unhappy throughout most of the graphic novel. Why is transforming her son into a superhero so appealing to her, and why does Hank agree to it? Have you ever done something you didn’t want to for your parents and why? The graphic novel offers the reader many different kinds of heroes, and a range of ideas about bravery. In your opinion, who is the bravest character in the story and why? The Shadow Spirits that travel from China to America have polarizing ideas about the future of the Chinese people. How does the author use these two characters to illustrate the clash between cultures and generations in this story? How does fantasy and reality interact in this story? Why does the author use supernatural elements (superheroes, spirit shadows, wishes)? What is he trying to convey about the harsh realities of Hank’s world in dangerous Chinatown? The Shadow Hero is based off of an original comic book series published in the 1940s. What is so special about the comic book as a format, and why does it lend itself so to superhero stories? Why do you think the author wanted to base his own graphic novel on these comics?


Meet the Author

 Hi, my name is Gene Luen Yang and I am the writer of "The Shadow Hero," which is the graphic novel out from First Second Books. It's illustrated by an immensely talented friend of mine named Sonny Liew.Together we revive a character from the 1940s whose rumored to be the very first Asian-American superhero. 

In the 1940s, American comics were going through their golden-age, so comics were selling in the millions every month. And during this time, companies were throwing all sorts of superhero characters out to the public to see what would stick. 

A small publisher by the name of Rural Home asked an artist who was working for them, a guy named Chu Hing, a Chinese-American, to create a superhero character. So Chu Hing does. He creates a character called the Green Turtle who is a bit of a batman knock-off. He lives in a cave and he flies this turtle-shaped airplane. And there's a rumor about the Green Turtle and that is that Chu, his creator, wanted him to be a Chinese-American. But his publishers wouldn't let him do it. So Chu reacts in this really passive-aggressive way. 

In all of these early Green Turtle comics, Chu draws his main character so that his back is almost always to the reader. All we see is his Green Turtle cape. And then when the Green Turtle is turned around, something is blocking his face. It's either a piece of furniture or its another character or its his own arm when he's punching. And the rumor is that Chu did this so that both he and his reader could imagine the Green Turtle as he originally intended, as a Chinese-American. 

Nobody knows if this rumor is true, but I first read about it in the internet and I found it so intriguing that I wanted to do a book about it. And that's why I asked Sonny to partner up with me to do this. Chu Hing never got around to telling us the Green Turtle's origin story. Because he just wasn't that popular. The Green Turtle actually go canceled after five issues. 

What Sonny and I wanted to do was we wanted to create an origin story for this obscure character from the 1940s and we wanted to firmly establish him as the first Asian-American superhero. So in our version, the Green Turtle is a Chinese-American young man by the name of Hank Chu and we also wanted to pay an homage to Hing's orginial work. So on page 88 and 89, the Green Turtle gets into his turtle costume for the very first time, he goes out and he meets a police officer by the name of Detective Lawful. 

Throughout this entire spread, Sonny and I made sure that you could not get a good look at the Green Turtle's face. And that was our way of acknowledging the source material of acknowledging Chu Hing's work.


Customizable Lesson Links The Shadow Hero: Story Map

With this customizable lesson, students work with story structure and organize the important elements to support comprehension of fiction text. Choose one or more levels to differentiate, scaffold, and extend instruction of literature.

Level 1

Story elements sections (for writing and drawing) include: beginning, middle, and end. Also includes two customizable spaces to document questions, outcomes, or learning targets.

View sample Level 1 lesson

Level 2

Story elements sections include: setting, characters, beginning, middle, end, problem, and solution. Also includes two customizable spaces to document questions, outcomes, or learning targets that support summarizing and synthesis.

View sample Level 2 lesson

Level 3

Story elements sections include: setting, characters, rising action, conflict, climax, falling action, and resolution. Also includes two customizable spaces to document questions, outcomes, or learning targets that support summarizing and synthesis.

View sample Level 3 lesson

Level 4

Story elements sections include: setting, characters, foreshadowing, theme(s), conflict, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. Also includes two customizable spaces to document questions, outcomes, or learning targets that support summarizing and synthesis.

View sample Level 4 lesson

Tips for distributing Customizable Lessons





Sources: Retrieved 2/14/19 from:




What is a Hero?: Exploring the Concept of a Hero
Text Set for The Odyseey by Homer
created by Lara Hawley

The theme of What is a Hero? can be explored from many different viewpoints. Students might look at how society portrays a hero and what expectations we, as members of this society, have. This can cause individuals to examine the ethnicity, gender, and culture of modern day heroes. Forcing them to decide whether or not society’s idea of a hero aligns with their own personal definitions of a hero. The question of What is a Hero?, allows students to make associations to their own lives. They can describe people they know and defend whether or not they fit these conceptions of heroes. It prompts the students to question their original impressions of a hero.

The unit and theme will be investigated through the lens of the novel The Odyssey. This text is complex and often difficult for young students to engage in. It incorporates challenging language, but my hope is that through this theme, students will become more interested in the characters and the storyline. The additional video clips, charts, and other resources will help the class make sense of the book.

As I was generating my Text Set, I tried to include resources that would spark interesting conversations in the classroom. For example, I included the “Pep Talk from Kid President” to force my students to look at themselves as heroes. I also incorporated the “7 Types of Heroes” so the students could broaden their idea of what a hero is and compare different types of heroes. I hope that students will rethink the characters of the Odyssey during this unit and decide whether or not they should be considered heroes.

Anchor Texts (although other texts may be used!): The Odyssey by Homer

Graphic Novel   The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew

Books (Excerpts) Be a Changemaker by Laurie Ann Thompson

Videos “What is a Hero?”Freedom Writers Clip (Everyone is a Hero)“For the Heroes: A Pep Talk from Kid President”Les Miserables Clip (Selfless/Forgiveness)Caitlyn Jenner Speech

Movies Star Wars
The Dark Knight Rises


Poems “The Charge of the Light Brigade” by Alfred Lord Tennyson
“A Hero” by Robert William

Short Stories” “Thank You Ma’am” by Langston Hughes
“Initiation” by Sylvia Plath
“Cranes” by Hwang Sunwon

Songs “Kill Your Heroes” by AWOLNATION
“We Could Be Heroes” by Alesso

PowerPoint (Teacher Created/Shared) “Superhero PowerPoint”

Internet SourcesThe Hero’s JourneyFive Qualities of Incredibly Heroic Leaders7 Types of HeroesAnti-HeroDictionary DefinitionHero Quotes

News ArticlesWhat is a Hero?CNN Heroes


Guiding Questions

  • ·       What is a hero?
  • ·       What makes someone a hero?
  • ·       Do you have to be perfect to be a hero or can heroes make mistakes?
  • ·       Can you be a hero because of one heroic act?
  • ·       Are there different types of heroes?
  • ·       Is heroism an innate or learned quality?

Writing Prompts

  • ·       How are you a hero?
  • ·       Who is your hero and why?
  • ·       Make a list of top ten qualities of a hero–from most important (1) to least important (10).
  • ·       Which of the characters in the Odyssey is the most heroic?

A special thanks to Lara for this phenomenal text set! We think this text set would be useful for many anchor texts! What do you think?



Comments (0)

You don't have permission to comment on this page.