A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What 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. 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 cheeks and foreheads, 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.
What's the story?
NOT-SO-NORMAL NORBERT is set in a future Earth under an authoritarian dictator where conformity is king and imagination is insanity. Everyone wears the same drab gray jumpsuits, and everyone is always under the watchful eyes of the Truth Police -- and of Loving Leader, who sees all and knows all. Twelve-year-old Norbert finds life pretty dull, but he cares more about finding his parents than making waves. Until one day in class when he gets fed up and dares to stand in front of the class and and do a hilarious imitation of Loving Leader. Faster than you can say "Zorquat 3," Norbert finds himself whisked off to that very planet, where imagination and creativity are not only allowed to run free, they're also mandatory. Stuck on a planet far from home, how will Norbert ever track down his parents now?
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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how society in Not So Normal Norbert is dystopian. What does "dystopian" mean? How is this book different from other dystopian books you've read, or movies or TV shows you've seen?
What are some of Norbert's character strengths? What about weaknesses? What do you like about him?
Do you like the illustrations in the book? Are there too many? Not enough? Do they enhance the story or get in the way?
- Authors: James Patterson, Joey Green
- Illustrator: Hatem Aly
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Arts and Dance, Misfits and Underdogs, Space and Aliens
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: JIMMY Patterson Books
- Publication date: July 2, 2018
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 14
- Number of pages: 368
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
Themes & Topics
For kids who love science fiction and middle school tales
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.