CM . . .
. Volume XX Number 37. . . .May 23, 2014
Caroline Adderson and Qin Leng’s Norman, Speak! is a timeless story about a boy and his dog with a twist appropriate to today’s audience. It begins at the animal shelter with the unnamed narrator and his parents picking out a new family pet. The boy would like to find the saddest dog, but he takes the one that has been there the longest. After bringing Norman home, the family soon believes that they did not choose the smartest dog, but they love him regardless. It is during a routine trip to the park that the boy learns that Norman can follow directions, but just not in English. This story is a fantastic one on so many levels and will be widely appreciated by a wide age range of children.
Adderson’s descriptive vocabulary makes the book realistic and prompts the imagination. Phrases such as “happy hula wag” and “he tilted his head and stared” really encapsulate the motions of a dog and make it so all ages can relate. The incorporation of Chinese into the text of the book makes it a great starting point for follow-up discussions and language lessons. Adderson’s tone is perfect for the age range because the language is simple and descriptive enough for comprehension by even the younger audience. Adderson, who has written both adult and children’s books, has been the recipient of various literary awards.
Leng’s illustrations add a great level of detail to this story. The images are clear enough to be seen from afar which is necessary for a public audience, but they are also detailed enough to promote discussion in smaller groups. The muted colour choices help add a realistic depth to the illustrations. The figures are portrayed realistically which may allow for readers to associate themselves with the characters. Leng has published many picture books and has received awards for her artwork and animated short films.
Overall, Norman, Speak! is highly recommended for children ages four to eight. The story is adaptable enough to be as simple as is necessary for younger audiences and complex enough for older ones. It encourages the acts of language awareness, diversity, and empathy. Children with new pets can relate, as can any child who wonders about other cultures. Norman, Speak! opens a dialogue for new discussions and is the perfect fit for any classroom.
Rhiannon Jones is an EMBA/MBA liaison librarian at the University of Calgary. In her spare time, she reads and re-reads books to her three children who teach her that something new can be gleaned from multiple tellings.
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