4 out of 4 stars
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Norman is a children’s picture book written and illustrated by Michelle Olson. The main character, Norman, is a red button on a coat. He feels useful having the important function of keeping the coat closed; this way the person wearing the coat stays warm. Norman likes feeling needed until one day the thread attaching him gets loose and he falls off the coat. He goes in search of another “job” which leads to some humorous adventures.
I can honestly say I have never read a story before that featured a button. The concept is quite original, although a few of the plot points are a bit subtle for a young child. For example, Norman tries to become a plumber, but his holes (remember, he is a button!) are a hindrance when trying to plug up a leak. If it’s not apparent without an illustration, the water shoots through the button. Norman also attempts to be a photographer, but his vantage point is very low due to his small stature. As a result, the photos he takes are all things low to the ground, such as a sewer cover or fallen leaf. The phrasing in this passage, “being small really limits your viewpoint,” may be too advanced for a child to comprehend.
The overall theme of the book is very relatable. It is better to be who you are, rather than try to be someone else. I liked that the book had a clear problem, with a plot that follows along toward a resolution. This type of traditional plot is helpful for young children who are learning how to understand cause and effect in a story. In addition, a positive message is emphasized, that everyone has their own special abilities.
The illustrations clearly depict the actions described in the text and add depth to the story. The author does a wonderful job of placing facial expressions and limbs on a button against various photographic backgrounds. One of the cutest pictures shows Norman wearing green underwear and a handmade superhero cape with an “N” on the back. I also liked that the previous illustration displayed a sewing machine and fabric as it would help children infer where the cape came from. This type of picture clue can teach a child inference skills which are important in reading comprehension.
The story would be fairly easy for a child to follow. A few of the word choices are too sophisticated for young children - for example, flammable, perspective, limit, and foiling. Still, parents or teachers could explain the meaning of the words which would expand a child’s vocabulary.
I am pleased to award a rating of 4 out of 4 stars. With a likable main character and universal moral, the book provides an entertaining way to build confidence in kids. I would recommend it to children ages 4-9. Children who are older than 9 years old might also enjoy the humorous parts, but would likely be more interested in a longer, more detailed story vs. a short picture book.
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