BookDragon Books for the Multi-Culti Reader

Norman, Speak! by Caroline Adderson, illustrated by Qin Leng

 

Norman, speakWhen a young boy and his parents go to the animal shelter, they return home with a brown-and-white dog with a stump for a tail because he’s the “saddest.” “‘No one knows his real name,'” the shelter employee explains, “‘Norman is what we call him.'” As soon as his cage door is opened, Norman begins to wag until “his whole rump swung from side to side. His wag was a hula dance of happiness.”

Wagging proves to be the only communication between boy and dog. “Norman didn’t understand a word we said … after a few days with Norman, we knew the truth. He just wasn’t very smart.” And yet Norman’s energetic glee is just irresistible and “[w]e loved Norman anyway.”

One day at the park, Norman’s family learns quite the language lesson: a man and his playful canine companion show that Norman is actually fluent in Chinese (!), which prompts Mom, Dad, and the boy to sign up for Saturday morning Chinese classes. In spite of the difficult challenge (“‘More effort. Fewer jokes,'” Teacher Wang warns airplane-throwing Dad), the boy works hard to speak to his new best friend. Oh, the many languages of love …

Caroline Adderson, an internationally lauded Canadian writer for adults as well as older readers, debuts her first picture book which arrives south of the border already prized with the 2012 Helen Isobel Sissons Canadian Children’s Story Award. Adderson’s thought-provoking, diversity-celebrating (oh, so cleverly so!) tale is superlatively enhanced by Qin Leng‘s whimsical, humorous illustrations. Most noteworthy are the expressions Leng imbues on both her canine and human subjects – from the quizzical head tilt to classroom giggles. Get ready to join in on that “hula dance of happiness.”

Readers: Children

Published: 2014

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