Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Seriously, Norman!

Seriously, Norman!

Fall 2011 Fiction
Ages: 9 - 14 yrs.
Author: Chris Raschka
Publisher: Scholastic
ISBN: 978-0-545-38846-7
Hardcover Price: $17.95

When Norman Normann flubs his high school entrance exams, his parents hire Balthazar Birdsong to tutor him. Before we get to the second page, we know this is going to be fun.

Norman's parents - Orman and Norma Normann - are eccentric. His father's a bomber salesman, his mother's a loveable ditz. Norman's cohorts, Leonard and the twins, Emma and Anna, are up for anything, and Balthazar Birdsong has a city apartment with a stunning terrace view. You couldn't ask for more.

Balthazar's tutelage is part whimsy, part magic and two parts frothy chocolate drinks. Chris Raschka has a playful sense of humor. From the clumsy mystery men who hover around Norman's father, to the unorthodox teachings of Birdsong (we should all have such a tutor), to the gamey attempts by the children to straighten out their adults, this book is packed front-to-back with comic high jinx.

Norman's tutor assigns him the dictionary to read and teaches him the importance of observational skills. By the time he and his friends have reached "Z," their studies have served them well. They travel to Singapore, outwit the fur-topped Alfurnians (see dictionary, under "A"), rescue Norman's father and that's just the half of it. Nothing makes sense, until the end when all makes perfect sense.

This is smart silly fun at it's best and the vocabulary threaded through by way of Norman's dictionary assignment is a bonus.

Teresa DiFalco   ©2011 Parents' Choice
Teresa DiFalco is an award-winning ghostwriter, writer, and mother in Vancouver, Washington. She's been a contributing editor for Parents' Choice for over ten years. She's a strong speller, a menace at badminton, and makes a decent soufflé.

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