cover image Not-So-Normal Norman

Not-So-Normal Norman

Cynthia M. Stowe. Albert Whitman & Company, $13.95 (127pp) ISBN 978-0-8075-5767-9

There is very little laughter in Anthony's house since his father, a carpenter, hurt his back and has had to stop working. His mother holds a full-time job and takes in mending, and the fourth grader determines to do his share, too. He decides to start a pet-sitting service (""No animal refused""), setting the stage for some generically offbeat-but ultimately touching-scenes. First, an eccentric, frizzy-haired woman brings Anthony her pet tarantula, Norman, for a two-week stay. Then Norman stops eating and starts losing his shine, and a worried Anthony whisks the spider to the vet. The whole episode-including the vet's diagnosis that Norman is simply molting-lifts Anthony's father's spirits. All the inaugural customers are satisfied, making for a cheerful if predictable ending. In addition to a plot that skips along quickly and a generous selection of Smith's engaging black-and-white illustrations, this paper-over-board volume features large type and short chapters-all of which are likely to encourage hesitant readers. Ages 8-11. (Jan.)