Book Review: Perfectly Norman by Tom Percival

Hello everyone! Hope you all had a lovely chilled weekend. Yesterday was the Great North Run so naturally I made the decision to put as much distance between me and the North East as possible. So instead of getting all gross and sweaty, I took a little day trip to Edinburgh - one of my favourite cities in the world! And while I was there I made a visit to Waterstones where I picked up this little gem! I've read Perfectly Norman before and I'm a big fan of Tom Percival's picture books but for some reason I didn't already have this one in my collection so I decided to bring it home with me. So today I'm going to give you a quick review of this lovely little book and tell you all the reasons why it's one of my favourites.

Perfectly Norman is about a young boy who one day grows a pair of wings. At first Norman loves his wings - after all, who wouldn't love soaring through the sky amongst the birds? But as he's whizzing around practicing his flying skills, Norman suddenly has a worry: what if his family and friends don't like his wings? In a panic, Norman hides his wings under a huge puffy coat, trying his hardest to blend in with all the other children. At first it seems to work, but Norman soon realises that hiding who you are doesn't feel very good inside. Eventually he can't take the lying anymore and Norman reveals his wings to the whole world! Inspired by his bravery, other children reveal their wings too and Norman and his winged friends take to the sky together.

Tom Percival is quickly becoming one of my favourite picture book author-illustrators and if you've read Perfectly Norman, you'll understand why. His illustrations are wonderful and the messages behind his stories are so important for little ones to hear. Like his other picture books, Perfectly Norman combines beautiful artwork with moving words proving that even the shortest of stories can be powerful enough to share a meaningful message. As a children's bookseller I'm regularly asked by parents for children's books that celebrate difference and diversity and help children to understand who they are. Perfectly Norman is my go-to picture book in these scenarios because its message of love and tolerance is universal. The first time I read Perfectly Norman, I perceived Norman's wings as a metaphor for being gay. Likelihood is I was projecting my own experience of feeling different onto the book, but that's what makes it work so well: the wings in this story symbolise different things to different readers. We've all had that experience of feeling like an outsider and it's never nice, but with Perfectly Norman, Tom Percival has created a picture book that speaks to just about every child, providing comfort for anyone who might need it. As I'm sure most parents and teachers know, picture books featuring diverse and marginalised characters are difficult to come by so a book like Perfectly Norman which can be used to explore and explain so many different things (autism, ethnicity, sexuality, disability, etc.) is truly invaluable.

One of the things I really love about this book is the use of colour. For the most part, the book is illustrated in monotone, depicting the world as dull and bleak. Except, of course, for Norman who stands out on the page with his bright yellow jumper and his colourful checkered kite (note the symbolism here folks!). One of my favourite illustrations is when Norman takes flight for the first time - just look at the way the colour emanates from Norman as he finally gets to be himself, completely unrestrained. The colour cleverly reinforces Percival's message about difference - being normal is dull... literally.

My favourite scene is the final spread where Norman takes off his big puffy coat and shows off his wings to the world. Just look at all the other children who, like Norman, are finally getting to enjoy life in full-colour now that they've stopped hiding from the world! It's such a lovely, hopeful note to end on and it really shows kids that no matter what you're going through, you're never experiencing it alone.

Perfectly Norman is a wonderful book that teaches children about tolerance, diversity and celebrating difference. I adore the story's message and I love the subtle types of representation you can spot throughout the book (there are children of different ethnicities, an inter-racial family, children with glasses and a young boy with a prosthetic leg). It's a book that all children can enjoy and one that every parent and teacher needs to read to their little ones. And if, like me, you love Perfectly Norman be sure to check out Tom's other books Ruby's Worry and Ravi's Roar.

Have you read Perfectly Norman? And did you love it as much as I do?

What other diverse picture books do you love? Let me know your favourites in the comments below!