age range: 9-12 years
genre: superhero fantasy
topics: neurodivergence, family, community
Shawn M. Peter’s website
Peters folds laughs and action aplenty into a winning series opener that features both a ka-pow! premise and a particularly memorable addition to the recent uptick of neurodivergent narrators. ‘That,’ to quote Logan’s mantra, ‘is a fact.’
— Booklist, starred review
An engaging superhero story with the message that, sometimes, not fitting in and seeing the world differently are gifts that just might help save the planet.
— School Library Journal
The Unforgettable Logan Foster #1 is a superb, fast-paced superhero fantasy about identity, self-worth, and finding community. I’m glad that this is the first in a series of books, and I’m sure that readers who enjoy superhero books and films will LOVE this one. It’s also fantastic on audio and showcases foster care in a positive light while highlighting the challenges some kids (especially those of certain races or with a disability) face. Overall, a brilliant debut.
— Reading Middle Grade
This is a book every kid can enjoy.
— Paw Prints in the Sink
Please tell us about your books.
My debut Middle Grade adventure series starts with THE UNFORGETTABLE LOGAN FOSTER, where a twelve-year-old neurodivergent orphan with a photographic memory is fostered by a nice couple, named Gil and Margie, who are clearly hiding something. Logan isn’t bothered by this and figures it’ll probably mean another failed placement. But instead, he discovers that his foster folks are actually superheroes, and that a lot of the stuff he’s read in comic books and seen in movies is real. Then, he and his new best friend, Elena, find themselves in the middle of having to try and rescue his foster parents from an immortal villainess named Necros.
Without spoiling too much, the sequel is THE UNFORGETTABLE LOGAN FOSTER AND THE SHADOW OF DOUBT, and it takes place just a few weeks after the first book ends, as Logan starts to learn what it really means to part of a family, all while having to worry that Necros is still looking for him because of some sensitive information he has stored in his one-in-a-billion brain.
There is a lot of action in both books and a lot of heart. I’ve been fortunate to get to talk to thousands of kids at this point, and I know that these stories and characters mean a lot to some kids who don’t usually get to see themselves reflected in the main characters of superhero content.
What inspired you to write this story?
When my kids were middle grade readers, I loved reading to them at night, and I discovered that the stories for this age group still had a huge space in my heart. They felt cinematic and relatable. I wanted to try writing one for them, and as a kid who adored comic books growing up, I felt like a superhero family story would be fun. At the same time, I was doing a lot of coaching of youth sports and activities, and my wife is a teacher, so she was coming home with stories of kids with Asperger’s Syndrome (which has since been redefined as Autism Spectrum Disorder) who were these smart, funny, interesting kids who weren’t always appreciated. I knew kids like this too, including my best friend’s son, and somehow the two ideas of a superhero family and a special kid who was tired of being made to feel “not normal” came together.
That’s when Logan was born. I wanted him to get to be the least powerful person in his new household, but still get to be a hero. And I wanted him to know what if also felt like to be the most “typical” person in his family, just by virtue of being human instead of superhuman.
Could you share with readers how you conducted your research and share a few interesting tidbits about your writing process with these books?
There were two types of research I had to do for this series. The first was a whole lotta Googling, because Logan has an eidetic memory and a penchant for going down rabbit holes and retaining whatever he finds. So, in every chapter, there are details of books or plays or scientific papers Logan’s read or movies he’s seen or factoids he’s come across, and I had to look up every one of those. My search history is like the ravings of a madman; scenes from “Annie” on one day, the number of heat-resistant tiles on the space shuttle another, and the latest theories behind the lost English colony on Roanoke Island, Virginia the next. I can’t come close to remembering them all, but Logan can.
The other research was around trying to portray Logan’s neurodivergence in an honest way. It’s a spectrum, so no one character can reflect more than one point on it. But I worked hard to draw from non-fictional sources exclusively, from talking to kids I knew personally, teachers like my wife and other professionals who have taught kids like Logan and articles about specific symptoms like sensory processing issues and Alexithymia, which is the inability to identify and name emotions. My editor also put me in touch with an autistic sensitivity reader who is a talented author as well, and they helped me steer the character toward better representation. I won’t fool myself into believing I got everything right, but seeing how autistic kids react to Logan’s story at school visits has been my favorite part of this past year’s journey.
What are some special challenges associated with writing about superheroes, a genre your readers probably are already very familiar with?
I love superheroes and comic books and adore writing about them, so the fun of it definitely outweighs the challenges. But at the same time, we now have more than a century of comics and superheroes under our belt as a culture, which means the biggest challenge is being original. It’s unlikely I can make up a superpower that hasn’t already been seen, so instead, my job is to create more fleshed out characters who happen to have a certain collection of powers that connect with who they are. For example, Margie, aka Quicksilver Siren, is Logan’s foster mom. She has hidden metallic skin, the ability to do some light mind control and is super strong. None of those traits is brand new to superheroes, but together, they make her both a cool hero and a super-mom. I mean, she’s literally got “thick skin,” can convince people to do the right thing and she’s built to stand up for her child. Of course, there’s also a much more concrete challenge, which is naming superheroes and super-villains. All the best names have been taken at this point, so you gotta get really clever with your ideas and your spelling.
What topics does your book touch upon that would make it a perfect fit for the classroom?
The message that Logan, and every other kid, deserves to feel like the hero of their own story is central to the books, and I feel like that’s a great place for teachers to start. Most kids don’t feel particularly powerful when compared to the world around them, but knowing that they can still be the “main character” and a hero is empowering.
Another theme is around Logan finally being accepted as he is by his new family and friends. When I have visited schools, the discussion around Logan being neurodivergent always opens up doors of empathy and curiosity. It’s a term most kids in elementary or middle school haven’t heard, but when you explain to them that it means someone whose brain processes information differently than the majority of people, they get it. And once you talk about the specific terms like autism, dyslexia, ADHD and others, they all realize just how many people they know who are neurodivergent, and the book becomes a mirror for those kids, but also a window for the neurotypical students as well.
The Unforgettable Logan Foster series also touches on the idea of social responsibility and The Bystander Effect, where there is a diffusion of responsibility when people expect someone else to step in and do the right thing. In my books, it’s explained on the grandest scale, where the question is how humanity would react if they knew there were superheroes protecting them. But in a classroom, it’s a wonderful onramp to talk about kids taking accountability for how they want to treat each other.