An important new children's book is on the market that encourages kids to question and consider the idea of "normal."
Normal Norman, by author Tara Lazar and illustrator S.britt, follows an eager young scientist who wants to answer the question, "What is normal?" through the narration of her first book. However, her subject, Norman the Orangutan, doesn't seem to fit into the narrow "normal" categories and ideas that she thinks he should.
The result is a provoking and adorable probe into the idea of normality, perfectly framed for a child to understand.
The Huffington Post chatted with Lazar this week about Normal Norman and what she'd like kids to take away from her new project.
The Huffington Post: Why did you decide to write Normal Norman? How is this book personal for you?
Tara Lazar: I am not normal. I never was! I liked me just fine, but when I was growing up, other kids teased my zany personality. To children, the different, the uncommon, can be scary. All we know when we're young is what we see in our own homes. We don't really have any idea about what is going on beyond us...until we get to school. Then we realize there is A LOT going on that we don't know and don't understand. It's so easy to be scared of what we don't understand -- it's our most natural reaction. But I want kids to know that it's OK to be you, just the way you are. And if someone is different, get to know them! They could be really funny and wind up being your best buddy!
What do you want children to take away from this book?
I want them to have fun and to laugh and giggle. That's what my books are about -- entertaining, sharing a love of books and reading that will hopefully last a lifetime. Next, I want them to realize that there really is no such thing as "normal" because we are all so different. How could there be one ideal to live up to? (Psst, there isn't.)
Why is it important that we have representations of diversity and open-minded perspectives in children's books?
Books should be windows as well as mirrors -- to let children see different cultures and perspectives, as well as themselves reflected back to them. Reading about diverse characters helps us understand those who are different than us, so we can build connections to each other, so we can foster community. Stories help us understand all that is good in the world and also all the things we hope to change. I hope after reading Normal Norman kids feel proud about all the things that make them unique and special...and that they reach out to someone they consider "different" to make a new friend.
Want to check out Normal Norman for yourself? Head here.