Friday, March 4, 2016

Spotlight Friday - Normal Norman 3.04.16

Time to get ready for the weekend!
Kick up your feet and find a good place to read.
Sharing #booklove for your classroom or library.
Spotlighting a book or two because these books deserve the spotlight!

Normal Norman
Normal Norman
written by Tara Lazar
illustrated by S.britt
published by Sterling Children's Books

I love that moment when you read a book and your heart gets a little bit bigger because you know you have found a book that you can't wait to share.  Normal Norman is one of those books.  Tara Lazar has crafted a timeless story, and one that is so important to share with young readers today.

Ultimately asking, what is normal, a junior scientist has found a completely "normal" gorilla to share with us.  Of course, within pages, we learn that Norman the gorilla is not scientifically considered normal.  And, is that ok?  Not at first with our young scientist.  The more "abnormal" Norman shows us to be, the more frustrated our young scientist becomes. But, of course, what is normal?  Is it ok to be unique?  Who decides what is normal?  All great questions to ask and discuss and share.

Mentor text for reading: character development and theme
  • I love the change in the character's thinking in this book.  Find points where you see the junior scientist's thinking changing. 
  • Using sticky notes, find places where the author showed theme - but look at it from both sides - how did Norman show what was normal, and how did the junior scientist argue what was normal?

Mentor text for writing:  opinion writing and POV
  • Pick a side, any side!  Is Norman normal?  Come up with your points and write and debate!  What a discussion!
  • Tara chose to have the junior scientist, the narrator, talk directly to the readers.  How does this choice work?

I also had the opportunity to ask Tara some questions about her book:

1.  This book clearly takes a look at what people perceive as being "normal".  What sparked the idea for this book and how did a gorilla get involved?

The story began with a name only: Normal Norman. And I knew he had to be ABNORMAL. He had to do the opposite of what the reader expected. Somehow it felt right to introduce him via a Junior Scientist, so I just went with it. 

The oddball thing is that I didn't know what kind of animal Norman was. And I thought it was a super opportunity for an illustrator to figure it out! If I were an illustrator, I'd want that job! 

S.britt came up with a few different versions of Norman, but just looking at them, Meredith (my editor) and I didn't think he quite hit upon it. Then he drew a purple orangutan with nerdy glasses and we KNEW IT. We knew the way you know about a good melon.

2.  Our 2nd graders were so fortunate to Skype with you this year.  It was at this Skype visit, we learned that you have some great acting abilities, at the very least, some great accents.  When you read this out loud, how does Norman sound?  How about the junior scientist?

I'm embarrassed to say I haven't hit upon Norman's voice yet. Whatever I've tried hasn't sounded right. I may go with a refined English accent. That may work. The Junior Scientist sounds too much like Little Red Gliding Hood right now. I need to watch some old school cartoons and work on my voices.

3.  You've inspired so many with your PiBoIdMo idea.  Can you tell us about one of your favorite moments that has come from this?

Every time someone contacts me with a "success story"--a PiBoIdMo idea that has blossomed into a manuscript that won an award, an agent or a contract! That's just the best. It's happened so many times now that I've lost count!

4.  This book has a timeless theme and I can see this book being used as a mentor text in generations to come.  What is something you're hoping that a reader doesn't miss in this book?

I hope they don't miss that it's not only good to be different, but it's essential. The world would not function if everyone wanted to behave normally. There would be no new inventions, no pioneers, no one taking risks. There would be no failure, and therefore, no success. Weirdos rule. Always remember that.

5.  Tell us about the moment when you saw Norman for the first time as illustrated by Stephan Britt.


Please note that is a prolonged short-vowel "gosh" and not a long-vowel "goosh" like "Koosh."

It is amazing to see something you created come to life. It cannot be adequately explained. It's a mixture of pride, wonder and ludicrous giddiness. It's a bit surreal. You can't believe something materialized out of thin air. From my head to a kid's bedtime ritual. Weird, man! Groovy!

Thank you, Tara, for taking the time to answer questions.

Everyone, please run out to your local bookstore or library and get your hands on a copy of Normal Norman.  You'll be so glad you did!

Would you like to win a copy of Normal Norman?  Find my tweet (@knott_michele) about the giveaway and retweet it by 7pmEST on March 6th for a chance to win!

Be sure to visit all the stops on the Normal Norman blog tour!


  1. Love the photo & your pjs, Tara! Thanks for sharing, Mrs. Knott :)

  2. I love that Norman stuffed animal!!! Henry and I really enjoy reading that book each night. It is such a great book with so many lessons. I am glad you liked it, too!