Seth Pietsek thought that he was writing a business book. Then his nine-year-old daughter Sofia unwittingly led him to write a children’s book. Samantha Strong Becomes Super, the first of an anticipated series, has the same emphasis as the business book Pietsek had been envisioning: Empathy is a superpower and taking care of others is a fundamental way to find depth and meaning in life.
Pietsek is a longtime communications professional and high school speech and debate coach who recently took a position at McMurry University. He was looking forward to the extra writing time that he is afforded by working at the university level. But Sofia had a different idea. For her, her dad writing from his home office was really just an opportunity for the two of them to hang out more.
And that’s when the author realized the irony of writing a book about valuing people when he wasn’t fully valuing the opportunity he had to spend time with Sofia and her siblings, Jaxon, age thirteen, and Hudson, age eleven. He wanted to bring these lessons to a younger audience and, he says with pride, “to brag on his own kids.”
Samantha Strong is a girl who dreams of being a superhero—of doing great things—and who practices for that future by doing old-school physical training with her dad. But the revelation comes when she realizes that her ideas of who qualifies as a superhero and what qualifies as a superpower have been limited to the fantastical and unattainable. Samantha’s superpower turns out to be empathy, the ability to see and feel when others are hurting or need a friend, and the willingness to act on that empathy.
Pietsek strives to teach this to his own kids that the key is to do something for someone else, even if it’s not the “something great” of superhero fantasies. In trying to implement this, he says, his kids have good and bad days, and there is sometimes peer pressure telling them that being empathetic to others’ needs is nothing short of lame.
Pietsek says that Samantha Strong Becomes Super highlights the important guiding role that strong families, and especially fathers, can and should play in children’s emotional development. ◊