Normal Norman: Questions and Answers with Tara Lazar

Normal Norman written by Tara Lazar with illustrations by S. britt (published by Sterling Children’s Books on March 1st, 2016) 

Norman is a normal (not!) purple orangutan, an ideal specimen to highlight all things normal . . . Of course, our young narrator scientist does not have an easy time in this in depth research process. Norman teaches her a thing or two about self-expression in this delightful, humorous story!

Normal Norman: Questions and Answers with Tara Lazar

My students adored this book and found Norman to be quite amusing and inspiring. We spent an afternoon sketching him and our favourite little scientist.

In the lab . .  .

Normal Norman: Questions and Answers with Tara Lazar

A study of research scientists.

Normal Norman: Questions and Answers with Tara Lazar

Norman in the lab.

Normal Norman: Questions and Answers with Tara Lazar

One student issued a challenge:  Did you spot the 5 vines?

Normal Norman: Questions and Answers with Tara Lazar

Pizza anyone?

Normal Norman: Questions and Answers with Tara Lazar

Norman, the dancer.

Normal Norman: Questions and Answers with Tara Lazar

Little artist with her inspired drawing.

Normal Norman: Questions and Answers with Tara Lazar

Tara Lazar & Norman - Author Pic

My students had many questions for Tara!

Story questions.

Writing questions.

Personal questions.

She was game to respond to all of them!

Thank you Tara!

Student questions are in bold and Tara’s answers are below.


Part way through, she should have switched him (Norman) for a tiger, don’t you think?

Tiger? You mean a double-headed donkey, right?

Is your message that all animals don’t need to do the same thing?

If that’s what you think, sure.

Or is your message “You don’t have to be normal”? That would be good because you don’t have to be like other people. Or other orangutans.

Another wonderful interpretation. We should not all be like other orangutans.

Did you give the illustrator the idea to have all the animals riding and driving things?

No, that was totally Stephan (which is the full first name of “S.britt.” Although I’m not sure if I’m supposed to divulge that top-secret information. I hope the book police don’t come after me.)

At the end, when the narrator wasn’t normal, she seemed happier. Was that your plan the whole time?

I don’t know. WAS IT?

Do you feel really protective about fruit? 

Not particularly. I’m far more protective of vegetables. Hey, watch it with those carrots!

What kind of not normal things do you do? Are they fun?

I write books for kids—while wearing my pyjamas. That is most certainly not normal. And also tons of fun.

Did you look at different animals and think what’s the opposite?

I looked at Norman and wanted him to NOT do what everyone expected him to do.

Do you write on a computer or with a pencil first?

Well, it really depends upon where you believe the story started. Most new ideas I jot down on paper very quickly. And usually with a pen. (Writing with a pencil gives me the chills.) But when I sit down to really write the story, to get past that initial spark, I do so on a computer. When I get stuck, that’s when I’ll pull out a notebook and start doodling and writing questions I have to answer and drawing arrows to possible solutions.

Do you write in the afternoon?

You can find me writing just about any time of day. I’m an equal-clockortunity writer.

When you can’t think of something to write do you go outside to look for ideas?

No, I usually take a shower. That is, if I’m dirty and out of ideas. If I’m clean and out of ideas, then I might go for a walk.

Check out the other amazing posts about Normal Norman – some still to come and some already published!

Normal Norman Blog Schedule

**Thank you to Josh from Sterling books for providing a copy for review!!

Schneider Family Book Award 10th Anniversary Blog Tour & Giveaway


The Schneider Family Book Award honours an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences. As so many of us are trying to include more diverse titles in our classroom libraries and read aloud selections, these award winners are an important resource for teachers and parents.

When Alyson Beecher from KidLit Frenzy asked if I would be willing to talk about a favourite Schneider Family Book award winner, many titles came instantly to mind. I chose to share Sarah Lean‘s touching middle grade novel A Dog Called Homeless (a 2013 winner) because this is a title that both my daughter Beatrice (now eleven) and I adored. I am also planning to read this book with my Junior Student Book Club this fall.

 A dog Called Homeless Schneider Family Book Award Blog Tour There's a Book for That

This is a precious and poignant read – one that you can sit down and finish in one emotional sitting and then carry it with you for ages. Lean takes on a tragic topic – losing a parent and explores the complexity of carrying on. We meet Cally Fisher and experience her grief and the healing process she goes through which involves new friends, visions of her mother and a very special dog called Homeless.

Cally needs to talk about her feelings and about missing her Mom but lives in a home with a brother who buries himself in his room and a father who covers himself in work and detective dramas on television and works hard to desperately avoid any memories of his wife. After Cally participates in a “sponsored silence” at school, she stops talking altogether. Without words, she begins to learn there are many ways to listen and to be heard. Sam, a new neighbour and friend who is blind and mostly deaf teaches her some of the most important lessons about communication. He gives Cally space, trust, faith and the companionship that she really needs.

“Sam is the best friend anyone could have. He’s like an angel from another world, and as he held my arm while we walked away, he was reading my heart, guiding me.”

This book is about many things, but at its core is a relationship between daughter and mother. So I asked my daughter to help me write this post. We both reread the novel and wrote up some questions for each other to answer. I asked Bea to write three questions and she gave me ten. An incredible, thoughtful ten! Proud Mama that I am, I’ve included all of them below. We each responded to three questions posed by the other.

Bea’s questions and my answers:

1. Do you think Jed is one of the most important characters in the story?

Jed is the link to both Homeless and Cally’s Mom. But he is also one of the characters that helps us measure the hearts and compassion of the other characters in terms of how they interact with him and the respect that they do or don’t show him.

2. Was there a character in the story that you felt close to? (other than Cally)

Surprise, surprise that I identified with Sam’s Mom, Mrs. Cooper. I loved how she adored her son and was very protective but yet, she had lots of room in her heart to care about others too (like Cally). She was a fun Mom who interacted with children in a natural and encouraging way. 

3. Other than her mother, what do you think Cally needed most in the story. Do you think she got it?   

I think what Cally needs most is a way to go on and be happy without her Mom being physically there with her. Do I think she got that? I think by the end of the story, there is a promise of how that can be possible

My questions and Bea’s answers:

1. Cally’s Dad says to her midway through the book: “You know sooner or later you’re going to have to speak. How else are you going to get what you want.” What do you think about this? 

That wasn’t fair to Cally – her mom just died and her dad should realize that is is so hard on her and maybe he should have asked her to write stuff down rather than pressure her into it. It seems like her Dad doesn’t understand her or try to understand her.

2. All of the characters handle grief in such different ways. How do you think you would handle grief? 

If you died, I would always be crying. I would probably shut off from the world for a while. It makes me want to cry just thinking about it.

3. What made Sam such a good friend to Cally? 

I think Sam knew that Cally was going through something rough and he understood the rules of friendship and knew how to not make her sad but instead make her SHINE. He let her feel like he understood her. And he was also kind of an inspiration to Cally. He had all these disabilities but he got through it and was a better person because of it!

Beatrice’s ten questions:

  • What did you think about how Cally’s friend Mia treated Cally?
  • Do you think Cally’s dad payed more attention to Cally when her mom was alive?
  • Do you think it was proving something to Mia and her teacher that made Cally stop talking for longer than needed?
  • Would you run away from Sam like Cally did? And do you think Sam felt bad when that happened?
  • Do you think Jed is one of the most important characters in the story?
  • What do you think was the role of Homeless in the story?
  • Was there a character in the story that you felt close to? (other than Cally)
  • Do you think that Cally’s dad should have let her keep Homeless in the beginning?What effect do you think that would have on the story?
  • Do you think that Cally’s mother was really there as a ghost at the beginning of the story or do you think Cally just wanted her to be so badly?
  • Other than her mother what do you think Cally needed most in the story? Do you think she got it?

I found a tweet in author Sarah Lean’s twitter feed tweeted the day her Schneider award arrived in the mail. Thank you Sarah, for sharing A Dog Called Homeless with your readers!

Check out all of the blogs participating in the Schneider Family Book Award 10th Anniversary Blog Tour & Giveaway:

To celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the Schneider Family Book Award, readers have an opportunity to win a set of all three 2014 Schneider Family Book Award winning titles. Participants must be 13 years or older and have a US or Canadian mailing address. There will be one winner but you can enter from any of the blogs as part of this celebration.

image of books for giveaway

Click on the link below to enter the giveaway.

a Rafflecopter giveaway