A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
A few vocabulary words like "pantomime" and "improv" explained. "Docile" isn't explained or defined but a character says it's a nice-sounding word.
Being different is OK, even fun. Embrace the ways you're different and find ways to express them creatively. Don't scare yourself or work yourself into a state by dwelling on "what-ifs"; stick to what is and deal with what's actually in front of you. Overall creativity and imagination are encouraged because they're fun, and the comedy show the kids put on brings about important changes to society, but the encouragement is undermined slightly by mandatory participation under the threat of banishment to a life sentence at hard labor.
Positive Role Models
Norbert easily works himself into a fright by imagining or worrying about worst-case scenarios, but he learns to control those tendencies and calm himself down by being more positive. He's a good friend and successful leader, even reaching out to those who don't like him and finding a way to work together. Kids have diverse-sounding last names like Chung, Garcia, and Rubenstein; physical features or skin color aren't mentioned. The only kids who express themselves using objects or gadgets are boys. The girls provide emotional support, romantic interest, and friendship and show their imagination and creativity by acting.
Violence & Scariness
Some mild scariness from fantasy creatures, scary aliens, poisonous snakes that are imagined by Norbert.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Norbert gets his first real kiss on the lips. An adult couple who are "a thing" kiss a couple of times. First romantic feelings are noticed, and there are a few kisses on the cheek or forehead, holding hands, and hugging.
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"Butt" and rare, mild bodily function humor, such as "Whoever smelt it, dealt it."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Not So Normal Norbert is a lighthearted blend of fantasy and science fiction for reluctant readers by publishing juggernaut James Patterson. The mild content is fine for big kids and up. Tweens and middle-schoolers will especially relate to the themes about the pressure to conform vs. the expression of creativity and individuality. Norbert is separated from his parents, who've disappeared, but lives with loving relatives. He imagines scary what-ifs like poisonous snakes, scary aliens, and fantasy creatures, but they stay firmly in his imagination. An adult couple kiss a couple of times and Norbert (12) gets his first kiss on the lips, but they're not described. There are vague romantic feelings, kissing on cheek and forehead, some holding hands, and hugging. There's no strong language but rare bodily function humor and a few uses of "butt." Norbert's a positive role model for leadership qualities and for learning to not let his fears get the best of him.
Is It Any Good?
James Patterson and Joey Green create another fun, funny middle school book that reluctant readers, especially boys, are sure to enjoy. But don't be fooled by Not So Normal Norbert's grim-sounding setup of a dystopian future and a kid looking for his lost parents. Big kids and up will find a lot of laughs, suspense, and adventure waiting for them among the "Astro-Nuts" of planet Zorquat 3.
Zeroing in on the anxiety and pressure kids feel to be like everyone else, the novel encourages them to let their imaginations run wild and to express their individuality and creativity freely in constructive ways. The authors keep it light here; there's not a lot of depth, and most characters besides Norbert are more types than real-seeming and relatable. But the humor, adventure, and lively illustrations will make this book enjoyable for reluctant readers, and hints about a future rescue mission will have them eagerly hoping for more from Norbert.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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