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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Norman, Speak! Written by Caroline Adderson and pictures by Qin Leng. Groundwood, 2014. $17.95 ages 5 and up

"Norman didn't understand a word we said. Whenever we spoke, he tilted his head and stared. Maybe he kept forgetting his name was Norman. Or maybe nobody had trained him properly. But after a few days with Norman, we knew the truth. He just wasn't very smart."

For anyone who has a dog, dreams of having a dog, has chosen a dog from a local shelter, or just loves dog stories, I have a new book for you!

The young boy, who narrates this story of Norman's assimilation into family life, has one of his dreams come true when the family agrees to visit the animal shelter in hopes of finding the right dog for them. The choosing is difficult...there are so many. But, the family takes time and care looking at each of the twenty-four dogs, in hopes of finding the 'perfect' one for them. The boy comes up with a plan:

"I know how to choose, " I said.
"Which dog has been here the longest?" I asked the
shelter woman.
She pointed to a brown-and-white dog. Where the other
dogs had tails, this one had a stump.
"He was a stray," the woman said. "Someone found him
and brought him in. No one knows his real name."

He's called Norman, and he is the one. For good reason it seems. Norman is happy enough to be chosen that his tail wagging is a 'hula dance of happiness'. Can it get better than that?

What happens when they get him home is the stuff of memorable and heartwarming tales. Norman may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer; the family loves him anyway. He cannot follow even the simplest instructions. He does provide great entertainment and much love for each of them; he does his happy dance whenever he sees a family member.

Then one day at the park, the young boy makes a lovely and enlightening discovery. It seems that Norman can follow directions...they need to be spoken in another language. The solution to the family's dilemma is handled in a way that will have the audience smiling. Difficult? Yes! Worth the work? Oh, yes!

Qin Leng's illustrations are done in ink, and then colored digitally. They provide a warm and realistic look at each of the characters, and their daily life with Norman. They add detail and offer an invitation for further discussion of this lovely family story. 

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