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Celebrating the Better Halves: Our Favorite Literary Sidekicks

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Move over, Sherlock.

The iconic detective, who originally starred in four novels and 56 short stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, usually steals most of the spotlight. But here at the Library, we love a good unsung hero, and we believe Dr. John Watson, Holmes’ erstwhile companion, deserves some credit of his own.

holmes
Poor Watson, shown only in profile. Image from the Mid-Manhattan Picture Collection in NYPL's Digital Collections.

So, as a birthday gift for the long-suffering, under-appreciated Dr. Watson — who usually narrates the stories himself — we asked our book experts to name literature’s best sidekicks. Here are their favorites.

peanuts

First introduced by Charles Schulz in PeanutsSnoopy the beagle is insanely smart and sly, and he’s a natural at just about everything he does. It’s sometimes hard to tell that Snoopy is a sidekick, as he often overtakes the spotlight, but he’s definitely my favorite of Charlie Brown’s friends. —Katrina Ortega, Hamilton Grange


 

The sidekick of sidekicks is the impeccable gentleman’s gentleman Mervyn Bunter, featured in Dorothy L. Sayers’ novels and short stories about Lord Peter Wimsey. Having served as Lord Peter’s batman in the trenches of the Great War, Bunter now stands by him in postwar England, helping to solve complex murder cases as discreetly and flawlessly as he arranges the externals of his master’s life: his appointments, his dress, his meals, spirits, wine and cigars, on at least one occasion attending a rare book auction on his behalf and economically placing the winning bids for the prized incunabula Lord Peter has his eye on. —Kathie Coblentz, Rare Materials

flash

One of my favorite sidekicks is Wally West, the Kid Flash from the Flash comics by John Broome and Carmine Infantino. Wally is the original Flash’s nephew who, after getting super speed powers in a lab accident, becomes the Flash’s sidekick. Eventually, after the original Flash is killed by a super villain, Wally becomes the new Flash to honor his uncle’s memory. —Benjamin Sapadin, Morris Park

Jean Tannen from The Gentlemen Bastards series by Scott Lynch is the perfect foil for the near-manic Locke Lamora. These inveterate con men were raised as grifters with hearts and as they scam their way through Camorr and other exotic fantasy settings, Jean is a calmer oasis in the hurricane of schemes. His demeanor hides a razor wit and deep-running passions, as well as wicked combat skills with twin axes. —Joshua Soule, Spuyten Duyvil

Bao, from Naamah’s Kiss by Jacqueline Carey, is one of my favorite sidekicks. In a foreign land with his master, he studies alongside the wayward Moirin. That girl is always getting herself into trouble and he’s always having to get her out. Or is it the other way around? Find out in this epic tale! —Chantalle Uzan, Francis Martin

Former drag queen Yitzhak is the much put-upon husband of Hedwig, “the internationally ignored song stylist barely standing before you,” in the rock musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch by Stephen Trask and John Cameron Mitchell. Yitzhak suffers the slings and arrows of Hedwig’s outrageous whims throughout the show, but is given a dazzling wig and a return to the spotlight by the end. LPA has various editions of the music and libretto from the stage version, and the DVD of the film version, in our collection. —Suzanne Lipkin, Special Collections

kamikaze

In Kamikaze Girls by Nobara Takemoto, Momoko is a fashionista Lolita who cares immensely about her style and what she’s wearing. Then she accidently meets her new sidekick, Ichigo, who only cares about her bike and her all-female gang! Together the two find themselves in a whirlwind of hilarious activity in rural Ibaraki! —Joseph Pascullo, Grand Central

In Howl’s Moving Castle by Diane Wynne Jones, mysterious, reclusive wizard Howl has made a deal with the fire demon Calcifer - a deal that is now doing neither of them any good. Forced to heat and guard Howl’s castle, Calcifer is a sarcastic and grumpy sidekick to the charming and kind albeit vain and self-absorbed Howl. Calcifer is also a sidekick to Sophie, a cursed girl with whom Calcifer makes another bargain — he’ll break the spell she’s under if she helps break his contract with Howl. Magical and laugh-out-loud funny. And if you enjoy this classic fantasy novel try the Japanese anime film version by Hayao Miyazaki. —Anne Rouyer, Mulberry Street

waffles

In Maria Parr’s Adventures with Waffles, Lena is Trille’s neighbor and best friend. She’s brash, moody, and a whole lot of fun. She and Trille spend their time getting into lots of trouble, like sledding with chickens and leading a cow into a boat! This Norwegian import is both immensely funny and touching with a tone of refreshing honesty. —Alexandria Abenshon, Webster

In the Sonic the Hedgehog comics, published by Archie Comics, Miles “Tails” Prower is a speedy two-tailed fox, good friend and sidekick to Sonic. —Jenny Baum, Jefferson Market

My favorite sidekick is Dromio, servant of Antipholus, in Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors. In the1984 BBC-TV/Time Life Films production, Dromio of Syracuse and Dromio of Ephesus are played by Roger Daltry, the lead singer of The Who. Double the fun in this brilliant production that completely brings the play to life! —Virginia Bartow, Rare Books

rules

In Joan Bauer’s Rules of the Road, we find the unlikely dynamic duo of teenager, Jenna Boller, and the elderly owner of the shoe company that employs Jenna, Madeline Gladstone, on a cross-country car journey that changes both of their lives. —Jeffrey Katz, Chatham Square

My all-time favorite sidekick is Piglet, best friend to Winnie-the-Pooh in the book by the same name by A. A. Milne. He is also featured frequently in House on Pooh Corner. And of course, you can visit them both in the Children’s Center! —Maura Muller, Volunteer Office

nimona

Lord Ballister Blackheart might think he doesn’t need a sidekick; but then again he hasn’t met shape-shifting, butt-kicking NimonaAn awesome graphic novel from the creator of Lumberjanes shows just how similar villains and heroes can become when the powers that be are corrupt. Also great for LGBTQ+ month and fans of the Adventure Time comic series. —Alessandra Affinito, Children’s Center

A Tale of Two Castles by Gail Carson Levine. Twelve-year-old Elodie travels to a new town in hopes of becoming an actress, but instead nearly starves to death. Her salvation comes in the form of a dragon detective whom she must assist in solving a magical mystery. —Althea Georges, Mosholu

 

Want more recommendations for your own summer reading? Email us for personalized suggestions, ask us on Twitter, listen to our podcast, and take a look at our blog posts and Staff Picks on NYPL's Recommendations page.

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Staff picks are chosen by NYPL staff members and are not intended to be comprehensive lists. We'd love to hear your ideas too, so leave a comment and tell us what you’d recommend. And check out our Staff Picks browse tool for more recommendations!

 

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