cover image Norman Didn’t Do It! (Yes, He Did)

Norman Didn’t Do It! (Yes, He Did)

Ryan T. Higgins. Disney Hyperion, $17.99 (48p) ISBN 978-1-368-02623-9

This astute and endearing story of displacement anxiety starts with an unusual dyad: Norman, a wide-eyed porcupine, and Mildred, a tree. As the story alternates between short narration and speech balloons filled with Norman’s heart-on-his-sleeve monologues, it becomes clear that while Mildred neither talks nor moves, Norman feels that he is in a reciprocal, supportive relationship (“Yay! You win!” says Norman after somehow engaging Mildred in chess). But when a seedling springs up nearby, Norman becomes obsessed with the idea that he’s no longer Mildred’s favorite. “Under the cover of night,” he goes to a very dark (and funny) place—transplanting the little tree to a remote island before, soon enough, regretting it. (“What if digging up your friend’s friend in the middle of the night and taking that friend very, very far away was NOT the right thing to do?”) Digital cartoon vignettes show a keen sense of comic pacing—Higgins (We Will Rock Our Classmates) knows exactly when to go in for a close-up and focus on Norman’s comic sturm und drang. The porcupine is a protagonist that readers should find deeply relatable: reveling in unconditional love, prone to impulsiveness and rumination, and absolutely capable of self-redemption. Ages 3–5. Agent: Paul Rodeen, Rodeen Literary. (Sept.)