cover image Not So Normal Norbert

Not So Normal Norbert

James Patterson and Joey Green, illus. by Hatem Aly. LB/Patterson, $13.99 (368p) ISBN 978-0-316-46541-0

Conformity is the ironclad rule on the United State of Earth, where individuality and imagination are banned, and middle school students wearing mandatory gray jumpsuits pledge subservience to the despotic Loving Leader daily. The laws of the land don’t sit well with seventh-grader Norbert Riddle, a creative cut-up who has lived with his servile aunt and uncle since his parents were whisked away by the Truth Police. Arrested after doing a mocking impersonation of Loving Leader, Norbert is banished to another planet to live at Astro-Nuts Camp for young earthlings who are deemed “different and dangerous.” He attempts to convince the camp honchos that he is a die-hard conformist loyal to Loving Leader, in hopes that he’ll be sent back to Earth and find his parents. Buoyed by Aly’s boisterous drawings, Norbert’s droll wordplay, wisecracking banter, and oddball characters, the comedy reaches farcical heights before careening to an unforeseen conclusion. The authors balance the inanity with real-life, affecting emotion, convincingly depicting Norbert’s fright as well as his yearning for his parents. A parting clue that Norbert has another space adventure ahead should get a thumbs-up from readers. Ages 8–12. [em](July) [/em]