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Normal Norman by Tara Lazar Blog Tour & Guest Post

A Guest Post from Author Tara Lazar & Giveaway



Written by Tara Lazar
Illustrated by S. Britt
(Sterling Children’s Books; $14.95, Ages 4 and up)

Normal Norman by Tara Lazar with illustrations by S. Britt, is an ode to individuality, and a wonderfully wild and wacky way to reinforce the message to children that there’s no such thing as normal. Good Reads With Ronna asked author Tara Lazar to speak to this topic, wondering how she embraces her own unique brand of non-normality in her every day life. Oh, and since I haven’t said it yet, I recommend you unicycle, not run to your nearest bookstore to get a copy of Normal Norman AND enter our giveaway, too! 🍌


I am not normal.

Tara Lazar & Norman - Author Pic
Normal Norman author Tara Lazar alongside the personable, purple orangutan. Photo courtesy of Autumn Lazar ©2016.

I unexpectedly launch into foreign accents while talking. Think a “cawfee tawk” Linda Richman, morphing into a good ol’ cajun creole, followed by a dashing foray in the King’s English. (I’ve been brushing up on Nana’s Irish brogue, but it’s not quite there yet.)

I don’t dress like a 40-something, either. I know that What-Not-to-Wear show cautions against mini-skirts, Mickey Mouse sweatshirts and combat boots—especially all at the same time—but I don’t care.

Since I don’t walk very well, I’ve got a mobility scooter. I painted flames on it. Its max speed is 5mph, so the flames make me feel as close to being Danica Patrick as I’m gonna get.

I hate coffee, and I’m a writer. How weird is that? And, what’s even worse, I don’t care for chocolate. If you offered me a dish of ice cream or a plate of cheese, I’d cut the cheese every time.

Yes, I just made a fart joke. And I think it’s hysterical.

I told you, I’m not normal. And that’s precisely the way I like it.

Being normal is overrated. But when you’re a kid? Being normal is EVERYTHING! The slightest cowlick and you’re branded a nerd, a weirdo, a wackadoo. Wear glasses? Geek! Don’t even get me started on being pegged as the teacher’s pet! That was me all through my school years. I was taunted and teased, and one girl bullied me from 2nd grade all the way to senior year in high school. I didn’t dress normally enough or act normally enough for her.

I’ve tried to figure out why kids want everyone around them to conform. Maybe things are more predictable and safe that way. There’s nothing to be frightened about. Nothing will jump out suddenly, like a jack-in-the-box. You stay in your corner and I’ll remain in mine and we’ll get through this just fine.

I get it. Life is scary.

Tara Lazar doing her best mannequin-style Stop In The Name of Love.

But my mission in life is to make everything fun. If that means stopping in the name of love to snap a photo with mannequins at the mall, so be it. And if it embarrasses my 12-year-old, let her turn red. Let her see that things shouldn’t be so serious all the time. Let her learn to find joy in the most miniscule things–or a medley of 6-foot plaster mannequins.

When I wrote Normal Norman, I didn’t necessarily set out to write some grand statement about all this. I just wanted Norman to be funny and to have fun. What emerged was a character who did just as he pleased and loved every minute of it. What emerged, I suppose, is me—in purple orangutan form!

Norman's normal home
Reprinted with permission from Normal Norman © 2016 by Tara Lazar, Sterling Children’s Books, an imprint of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. Illustrations © 2016 by Stephan Britt.

The message to children, buried beneath the hilarity, is that there’s really no such thing as “normal”. With all of us being so different, how could there be only one “normal” expectation to live up to? The real normalness is being your true, normal self, in all its wonderful wackiness. Just like Norman…and me!

NN Blog Tour Schedule - FINAL


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Orangutan Houdini by Laurel Neme

Written by Laurel Neme
Illustrated by Kathie Kelleher
(Bunker Hill Publishing, Inc.; $17.95, Ages 3-7)


Fu Manchu, a crafty and clever orangutan in a Nebraska zoo, longed to roam outside the boundaries of the enclosure that he shared with four other orangutans. Although their outdoor play area allowed them to exercise and explore, Fu had his sights set on visiting a stand of elm trees growing near the elephant corral.

One day, Fu secured a loose wire from a light fixture. He concealed it in his mouth until he found an opportunity to fiddle with the enclosure’s door lock. Wiggling and juggling the wire, Fu soon popped the lock, unbolted the door and signaled to the others that an unauthorized adventure was in store!

ORANGUTAN HOUDINI, Neme’s debut picture book, is based on the true story of an adult male orangutan at the Henry Doorly Zoo in 1968. With gentle humor and mild suspense, Neme skillfully conveys the intelligence and capability of this mischievous ape with a penchant for escape. We, the readers, are in on the joke from the start, knowing how Fu was able to pick the lock. But poor Jerry Stones, the zookeeper, was repeatedly outsmarted by Fu and his friends, finding them at play in the elm trees on several occasions.

The zookeeper warns his staff to be more careful with the locks. They double check the locks, and search the enclosure for possible lock-picking tools. Finally, they concede defeat and build a new enclosure for the orangutans. Fu then reveals the wire that he has kept carefully concealed in his mouth all along, and thus earns an honorary certificate from the American Association of Locksmiths.

The attractive illustrations by Kathie Kelleher are colorful and nicely detailed, capturing the bemused and carefree attitude of the apes in contrast with the confused and frustrated zoo staff. Elephants, giraffes and a tiny chipmunk are also sprinkled periodically through the story, showing the disparity in the size of the zoo creatures and wildlife.

ORANGUTAN HOUDINI will appeal to budding naturalists and those with an interest in animal intelligence. Neme includes a helpful author’s note that discusses the orangutans’ ability to make deliberate plans, devise tools, and deceive others in a playful fashion. The book is a great springboard to talk about ape intelligence and the careful design of stimulating and safe zoo habitats. And for those wanting even more information, Neme’s extensive website includes a wonderful teacher’s guide to accompany the book, as well as helpful information on orangutans, endangered species, and protection of international wildlife habitats.

– Reviewed by Cathy Ballou Mealey


Where Obtained:  I reviewed a copy of ORANGUTAN HOUDINI from my local library and received no compensation. The opinions expressed here are my own.

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