Momaha Reviews Every Hero Needs a Sidekick

Omaha couple creates book for kids expecting a new sibling

By Ashlee Coffey, editor of

Mar 28, 2017

Momaha Review Blog Post

On Christmas Eve, my son Sam excitedly ripped open a present from his aunt and uncle. Underneath the wrapping was a book.

But this was no ordinary book.

“It’s me! It’s Sammy!” he squealed.

The book, “Every Hero Needs a Sidekick: The Adventures of Super Sam,” featured detailed drawings of Sam as a superhero. He couldn’t believe it.

He brought the book to me, climbed into my lap and immediately had me start reading it. Inside, the book features beautiful artwork of Sam as a superhero, leaping tall buildings and outrunning a speeding train.

But the story is what will get you. It’s about preparing a child for the birth of a sibling.

Even though this book was given to us after our second son Elliott was born, Sam still loved seeing himself as a superhero — and pointing out the baby, who he calls “my Elliott.”

The book is completely personalized. The superhero looks just like Sam, and the text featured both Sam and Elliott’s names. It was such a hit in our house — and I was pleasantly surprised to find out it was the brainchild of Omaha dad Phil Haussler.

When Phil and his wife, Stacey, were expecting baby No. 2, the couple was disappointed with the big brother books they found to prepare and excite their oldest for the changes that were coming his way.

“That’s when my husband started looking for the inspiration for a big brother/big sister book,” Stacey Haussler said.

This isn’t the first personalized book Phil Haussler has come up with. When the couple was expecting their first child in 2005, he wrote and illustrated a storybook for their unborn son.

“He didn’t really have any grand plans; it was just for our family. At the time, I remember him actually calling it a weekend project. But as the weekend project stretched into weeks, an idea for a personalized book started to take shape,” Stacey Haussler said.

That led to the book “Following Featherbottom” and the start of MarbleSpark, a personalized children’s book firm. Phil Haussler created MarbleSpark in 2009 with two other dads: Ken Wiebke of Lenexa, Kan., and Brad Sneed of Prairie Village, Kan.

That first book, “Following Featherbottom,” took four years to complete. “Every Hero Needs a Sidekick” took about three years to complete, and is the couple’s first book to feature an image of a child on every spread of the book.

“This turned out to be…hard,” Phil Haussler said. “After finishing the manuscript a couple years ago, we spent the past two years conquering the artistic and technical challenges.”

With four skin tones, six hair colors and 10 hairstyles, illustrator Brad Sneed created 240 versions of every single illustration in the book.

To personalize the book, you choose either a big sister or big brother. You add in the first and last name (middle name is optional), create your own dedication and add who it’s from. Then you get to pick skin tone, hair color and hair style. Once you’re done, you get to preview the book.

So far, it’s been a hit with those who have purchased the book.

“I gave this book to my daughter for Christmas, and it is amazing. She even said, ‘The superhero looks like me mom!'” said Kari Caddell of Omaha. “She truly loves being a superhero sister with a sidekick.”

Judy Pilmaier of Bellevue said, “We gave our granddaughter ‘Every Hero Needs a Sidekick,’ knowing it would be a hit. She is 5 years old and her baby brother was born in July. She loves to help take care of him. When her mom read her the book, she asked for it to be read again and again. Her mom had tears in her eyes as she saw her daughter connect with her brother in yet another way. She loves being known as ‘Super Reagan.'”

One of the Hausslers’ favorite parts about the book is that it defies gender expectations.

“As a culture, we so often cast our little girls as the princess,” Phil Haussler said. “But we loved the idea of making your daughter, the big sister, a superhero.”

What’s so special about this book is that it memorializes a special, albeit sometimes difficult, transition to becoming a new sibling.

“Ultimately, we’re trying to help parents connect with their kids, prepare them for their new little brother or little sister and, most important, get them excited about getting a new sidekick,” Stacey Haussler said.

Buy the book here for $29.95.

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