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Meet Norman the not-so-normal ape in new book

Act your age, your mother says.

“Straighten up and fly right,” says Grandpa, when you misbehave. “Settle down!” Daddy yells, and Grandma just growls. Don’t be weird, they say. Don’t be goofy; stop acting like hyenas. Can’t you be good, like other kids? But how do other kids act? In “Normal Norman” by Tara Lazar, illustrations by S. Britt, you might get a hint.

What’s the definition of NORMAL ?

To understand the word, let’s take a look at Norman. He’s got pretty purple fur — but aside from that, he’s just your usual everyday ape. He’s “the most average animal on earth. Regular. Ordinary. A common everyday creature” with a head that’s not out-of-the-ordinary, paws just like every other paw and ears that are perfectly run-of-the-mill. All really quite normal.

Except that Norman loves pizza, and he hates when people peel bananas. Peeling a banana, to Norman, is horrible and mean. Poor banana.

Poor Norman.

You might think that a creature as everyday normal as Norman would spend his nights in an ordinary jungle, in a normal cave or an everyday tree, wouldn’t you? But nooo, Norman snuggles in a bed with a soft blankie and pillow and a stuffed aardvark named Mr. Scruffles. Do you actually think that’s normal?

And do you think Norman’s “best buddy” is a chimpanzee? No, it’s not! Norman’s best friend is a great big, long, white snake! That’s so abnormal that it might hurt your head. Go ahead, you may want to take a few minutes to sort this all out.

Wait — get this: Norman likes to play in the sand, drive dune buggies, fly around in the sky, swim and dive, play with octopuses, dance the ballet, ride a bike, shimmy with a hula hoop and do all kinds of things that are absolutely not normal one bit. And his neighbors? Not. Normal. At. All.

But there’s one thing you really do need to know about Norman. One thing that’s abnormally large and abnormally wonderful. It’s the one thing that makes Norman abnormally perfect…

Every child knows that being just slightly outside of normal is way more interesting than doing things the conventional way. It’s more enjoyable, too, as you’ll see in “Normal Norman.”

Thanks to a very professional-looking junior scientist as narrator of this book, kids get to see a fictional laboratory in action as Lazar takes them on a faux-tour with a gigantic ape who’s anything but run-of-the-mill. Every point that Lazar’s young scientist poses is upset by Norman, until he eventually wins her over with good old-fashioned fun and games. By that time, there’s chaos all over the page and, with the help of perfectly painted pictures from Britt, your kids are gonna laugh.

I also think you’ll enjoy this book as you’re reading it aloud. It’s got just the right amount of sly silliness inside without going too wild. And if that’s what your child needs, then “Normal Norman” is great for you and for kids of 4- to 7-year ages.

View publishes Terri Schlichenmeyer’s reviews of books for children weekly.

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