Synopses & Reviews
Caldecott Medalist Chris Raschka makes his dazzling debut as a fiction writer
Now that the whole thing is over (and we all survived!), I can tell you what happened.
Picture this for a second. Rock wall six inches on my left. Sheer cliff hundreds of feet down on my right, my best friend Norman in front of me, mumbling something, and my mom behind me saying, "Step, step, step."
EEEEEEYAAAAAH! Next time my mom bugs me about sitting in front of the computer too much, I'm going to say, "Thanks, I prefer it where the near-death experiences are virtual!"
No, seriously, this story is about Norman and about how he grows and learns stuff. Uses his imagination. Observes things. Like his dad, who is so devoted to . . . money! Like how his dad is mixed up with weird creeps of the underworld. All over the world!
Why, why are grown-ups so insane?
That's exactly the question that Norman, Anna and Emma (the twins), and I, Leonard, try to answer. And with the help of Norman's new tutor, Balthazar Birdsong (also fairly nuts), we nearly do it, too.
"Picture book master Raschka tackles his first novel, a loopy story full of interesting ideas, which sometimes struggle under their weight. Norman Normann, 12, bombs his high school entrance exam, so his daft but concerned parents, Orman and Norma, hire him a tutor. Balthazar Birdsong's eccentric methods include daily sky observation and A-to-Z reading of a dictionary whose entries (occasionally illustrated by Raschka) seem to foretell events in Norman's life. Norman's focus, however, is less on school than on his father's possibly shady business dealings. This intrigue culminates in a Christmas week trip to Singapore that begins as a rescue mission but ends up an intervention of sorts. Brevity being the soul of wit, the linguistic punniness goes on a bit long, but Norman is a companionable protagonist whose affection for his clueless parents is charming. Time with Mr. B is also well spent the book is a veritable benefaction for readers' vocabularies. It's also easy to love a tutor who declares his mission 'is to get your heads and noses out of your textbooks and back into the clouds where they belong.' Ages 9 14. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Chris Raschka is the Caldecott Award-winning illustrator of A BALL FOR DAISY and THE HELLO, GOODBYE WINDOW. He is also the illustrator of YO! YES? (which won a Caldecott Honor), SOURPUSS AND SWEETIE PIE, CHARLIE PARKER PLAYED BE BOP, and FARMY FARM. He lives with his wife and son in New York City.