Sunday, October 30, 2011

What's So Punny?

Ready for a new review? Of course you are. Why else would you be here? Before I get to the next book, I want to announce that my reviews have been picked up by The Post and Courier newspaper in Charleston, South Carolina. Yay! Now for a new review.

"Seriously, Norman!"

By Chris Raschka
For Ages 10 - 14
It's "39 Clues" without the deadly enemies and family fortune and... well, the 39 clues. This meandering journey of observation and imagination is filled with big ideas, adventurous travel, quirky characters and humor. Rated 4 (bad language, perceived peril, adventure)

Best know as an illustrator on books such as, "Sourpuss and Sweetiepie," "I Pledge Allegiance" and "A Ball for Daisy," Chris Raschka makes his fiction debut with this adventure that seems to be more about enjoying the journey than reaching any destination. Everything begins when Norman Normann miserably fails his high school entrance exam. A good score would have gotten him into an exclusive high school. His well-meaning but oblivious parents hire Balthazar Birdsong, a highly-unorthodox personal tutor to prepare him for next year's exam. Balthazar gives Norman a dictionary and the directive to read it from cover to cover. Balthazar also encourages him to observe the clouds, and use his imagination.

When the dictionary entries seem to for tell the future Norman learns that his father sell bombers for a living and is mixed up with some strange and shady characters. Before long Balthazar is teaching Norman and his friends Leonard, Anna and Emma. They decide to rescue Norman's father, Orman, from the bomber business and track him halfway around the world. Good thing the tutoring seems to have prepared Norman for anything that he may face.

"Seriously, Norman!" is filled with unique perspectives, definitions, absurdity, puns and wordplay. There is plenty to like and plenty to dislike. The ideas seem to ramble as the story meanders from one event to another. Parents who are concerned about their children learning and using bad language should be aware of pages 220-221, which cover a four-letter word beginning with the letter S. It does nothing to propel the story, so if you are reading the book as a family feel free to skip those two pages.

Although "Seriously, Norman!" is entertaining, I think I prefer Raschka's picture books.

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