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Seriously, Norman!

3.07  ·  Rating Details  ·  128 Ratings  ·  36 Reviews
Caldecott Medalist Chris Raschka makes his dazzling debut as a fiction writer

Now that the whole thing is over (and we all survived!), I can tell you what happened.
Picture this for a second. Rock wall six inches on my left. Sheer cliff hundreds of feet down on my right, my best friend Norman in front of me, mumbling something, and my mom behind me saying, "Step, step, ste
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published October 1st 2011 by Michael di Capua Books
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Jul 05, 2011 Edie rated it it was amazing
Reminiscent a bit of The Phantom Tollbooth, Norman Normann has two clueless parents, one, his mother, overwhelmingly nurturing in a vacant sort of way, and the other, his dad, consumed with his desire to make money by selling reused bombers. Interested in making sure Norman does well in the world they hire a tutor who has a very novel approach to education. There are lots of puns here, mysteries about Norman's father's true activities and how to get him to stop being in the bomber business (and ...more
Sep 07, 2014 Elizabeth rated it really liked it
I have always enjoyed the messages in Chris Raschka's books so I was happy to see that he has forayed into chapter books. This was a great one!
His writing reminded me of Roald Dahl and Louis Sachar. The story is about Norman Normann who needs to do better on a test so his parents hire a tutor for him named Balthazar Birdsong. Through the story we discover that Norman is heavily burdened by the absence of his father AND the line of work his father is in. Mr. Birdsong along with the Quadrumvirate
Claire McNerney
Jan 10, 2016 Claire McNerney rated it it was amazing
I loved Seriously, Norman! so, so much! I loved how his tutor made him read the dictionary (something that I once did rather obsessively during a long car trip) and how all of the words and definitions fit into the story. I actually learned a lot of interesting words from reading this book, like infundibular, which means funnel shaped, and algogenic, which means causing pain, that I probably wouldn’t have learned in my normal life. If you love words, then this is the book for you. I wholehearted ...more
Aug 31, 2011 Handd51 rated it it was amazing
What a lucky day when Scholastic handed me an ARC of this book - it is outstanding. We could hardly expect less from Caldecott winner Chris Raschka, except this is his first novel for young people. The publisher lists this for 4th-9th grades, which is about right - except I thin it will more commonly be popular at the 6th-7th lgrade level. The book is funny, exciting, interesting and has an underlying (not-so-subtle) anti-testing theme. The story opens as Norman heads out to take the entrance ex ...more
Jan 04, 2013 Josiah rated it did not like it
“Observation performed merely on its own is no more than what a machine can do—a surveillance camera, for instance. And imagination on its own, practiced by itself for too long, can cut you off from the world. You might wander away, like a hermit to a cave, becoming only a spirit to the rest of humanity. However, if you remain in the world, and you train yourself to combine observation and imagination in proper proportion...then you may change the world itself.”

―Balthazar Birdsong, Seriously,
Kelli Gleiner
Oct 19, 2011 Kelli Gleiner rated it really liked it
This was a fun read! Norman meets his cool but weird new tutor, works his way through the dictionary, discovers his father's profession, tries to get his dad to stop doing what he does (no spoiler here) and sell shoes instead, and has adventures with his friends and family.
It's a great adventure story, and with the dictionary entries and trips around the world, it has a lot to teach children and adults.

I was lucky to have met Chris Raschka this past weekend, and told him that I enjoyed the boo
Debra Goodman
Oct 04, 2013 Debra Goodman rated it did not like it
The story starts when Norman bombs an entrance exam to choice high schools and his parents hire a quirky older tutor, Barthazar Birdsong, to help him study for the following year. Barthazar's approach is for Norman to read the dictionary (a letter each week) and take some trips around the city and the world. In the meantime, Norman and his three friends worry about his dad's profession - selling bombers. No joke.

This books started of slow and then went nowhere slowly. It tries to be funny - alon
Dec 28, 2011 Barbara rated it liked it
Shelves: ncbla
After twelve-year-old Norman Normann does poorly on the annual Amalgamated Academic Independent City Schools Test, his parents hire a tutor to prepare him for next year's test. But the tutor, Balthazar Birdsong, surprisingly doesn't arrive with a battery of test preparation exercises and reading and responding samples. Instead, he suggests that Norman study the dictionary, mastering one letter of the alphabet each week. He also takes Norman and his friends on field trips across the city. Clearly ...more
Dec 31, 2013 Josh rated it liked it
Shelves: young-adult
The characters in this book are really fun. Norman Normann has a nice character arc. It is very interesting to watch him grow as a person during the year chronicled in this book. The author handles this in a subtle way and does a good job of showing Norman change rather than telling you that he did. The writing is also very offbeat and clever in parts. Ostensibly, Norman is preparing for a big standardized test during the year, and I really liked how his "tutor" prepared him for that test (namel ...more
Harun Harahap
"You are all perfectly correct in your implications that we would be safer if we stayed home in our rooms, certainly we would be warmer and ultimately less footsore. But we would also be duller, stupider, and finally sadder. If you want to avoid danger, don't get born. Once you are born, make something of it!"

" have been enriched by all of the valuable elements of travel. That is, you have experienced worry, doubt, confusion, and exhaustion of every kind. But also inspiration, illumination
Apr 01, 2012 Michelle rated it liked it
I won an ARC copy of this book but because it took some extra time to show up I ended up with a regular copy which means I got the illustrations too! Seriously, Norman is the silly story of Norman Normann maturing over a year. I enjoyed the word play and the characters very much. They were well developed as were the relationships among them. I loved the word play at first but the more I read it became a little tiresome. Probably could have been a bit shorter for the writing style used. I laughed ...more
Jan 28, 2012 Tim rated it did not like it
Let's be honest: this would not have seen the light of day without Raschka's name on it (and/or some SERIOUS editing). This is an overlong slog of a read that is far too in love with its own sense of humor...and that might be excusable if that sense of humor were funny.

I gave this 80 pages the first time I tried to read it. I was sick of the lame jokes by page 20, and every character in the book annoyed me by page 30. I love me some silly middle grade and tween books. That's my sense of humor (
Sep 02, 2015 Dana added it
Here's a funny story. I was in the Children's Room of my local library (in NY) after kind of stalking my once-friend's little sister in order to tell her to pass along a hello to my once-friend. Anyway, after that, I hung around the library and saw the cover for this book.

I read the back and the inside blurb, and felt mortified when I couldn't remember this plot. I mean, I'd read it before, right? This guilt kinda followed me around, until I jumped onto Goodreads (2 minutes ago) and foun
Jul 28, 2011 Kim rated it really liked it
This is the story of Norman Normann, who, with the help of his friends and his amazing tutor Balthazar Birdsong, sets out to save his father (a used-bomber salesman) from bad karma. Sound confusing? It is. But in a fun way for the most part. While it took me about 60 pages to really get into the rhythm of the book, I'm glad I stuck with it. I was torn between 3 and 4 stars on the rating, only because the quirkiness of the story sometimes crosses over into cartoonishness. I don't think this is go ...more
Mar 12, 2015 Marci rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned, juvenile
I could not get into this book. I don't see how tweens (the intended audience) would be into it either. The characters' names are ridiculous. I thought it was slow-moving. Pass!
Dec 30, 2011 Becky rated it did not like it
I could not finish this book. Norman fails the test to get into a "super special school", so his mother hires a tutor-Mr. Balthazar, whose only assignment is the weekly reading of a letter in the dictionary. Norman consequently finds opportunities during the week to use his new-found vocabulary. Mr. Raschka spends way too much time with flowery descriptions and Norman's musings--it took nine pages for Norman to get over not doing well on his test. I forced myself to read 125 pages and nothing of ...more
Aug 04, 2015 Celeste rated it it was amazing
A thoroughly bizarre romp through the dictionary and across the globe in search of the true meaning of life, wisdom, and success.
Emma Lesko
Oct 02, 2014 Emma Lesko rated it really liked it
This book is not for every child, but a certain kind of child will love it. It's dense, it's slow, it's bizarre. The reading level seems advanced for the age. But, all these factors endeared me to it. It's quirky as all get-out. For me, the strongest aspect was the dialogue. It's hilarious in that the characters are constantly disconnected, missing each other, missing the point. Some of the exchanges between Norman and his mother are reminiscent of those between mother & son in Kennedy Toole ...more
Gabriella Reeves
Mar 28, 2015 Gabriella Reeves rated it it was amazing
Awesome book!! Cool.
Dec 22, 2011 Emily rated it it was ok
Shelves: middlegradebooks
I saw Raschka do a reading from this, and it was hilarious so I got it from the library. It IS hilarious (although not quite the same without him reading it), but it wasn't funny enough to be as long as it was. And I have absolutely no idea who the audience is. The characters and plot seems to be directed towards middle schoolers, but the vocabulary and pace are way older. Basically, I mostly enjoyed reading this but couldn't wait for it to be over because it just seemed to drag.
Jan 31, 2012 Joleen rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I received this book through First-Reads!

Chris Raschka's first venture into a novel brings us a humorous light hearted story about 12 year-old Normal who has failed his high school entrance exams to choose which one he will go to. His parents hie a tutor that is very eccentric but has Norman reading the dictionary. This will being up many new vocabulary words in the story.

This was a pretty good book and should be fun for middle age readers.
Mrs. Aubrey
May 16, 2015 Mrs. Aubrey rated it liked it
Too long, humorous, strong vocabulary. Would appeal mostly to grade 5-6 boy readers.
Mar 10, 2012 Susan rated it liked it
I think this book suffers from not knowing what it wants to be when it grows up...not that that's bad exactly...just an awful lot going on here.

I do LOVE that there is more to learn in the world than just what might be covered on a test (and that there are academic tests and life tests and it's best to be prepared for both!)
Sarah Abercrombie
Jul 09, 2011 Sarah Abercrombie rated it it was amazing
I laughed my way through this very funny book. I loved the word play throughout the story and dialog, the characters, Norman's affection for his very flawed parents, The stab at high stakes testing, and the tutor and his unorthodox methods, and the sort of zany plot. I haven't laughed out loud reading a book in quite a while.
Feb 21, 2012 Deena rated it it was ok
Not working for me as a kid's book. I found parts of it funny, but the dictionary definitions were distracting, even though I read the dictionary and encyclopedia as a child myself. The mystery wasn't even a good one and I felt scorn for the parents. The best part? I would have loved to have had Mr. B. as a tutor.
Dec 01, 2011 stillme rated it liked it
Shelves: jfiction
A funny alphabet book for middle grade readers. I really liked the crazy vocabulary, though I wonder if it would be a little overwhelming for the intended audience. Great subtext on getting a "real" education from life, not teach-to-the-test learning.
Jul 07, 2016 Jennifer rated it really liked it
Great humor. Can't wait to see what the pictures look like and how they affect the story. But I don't see kids following along with all the language and word play. It's a complicated story with lots of references they may not get.
May 03, 2013 Shannon rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
This sounds like a fun, interesting book! Looks like it will have interesting characters in a fun story! I'm looking forward to reading it! I just love a book with a sense of humor!
Naomi Schmidt
Aug 23, 2011 Naomi Schmidt rated it really liked it
The main character is named Norman Normann, his mother is named Norma Normann, and his father is named Orman Norman. And it only gets better from there.
Horace Mann Family Reading Challenge
Yes, an extremely talented illustrator CAN crossover to write fiction. Norman and the gang are trying to figure out adults.... good luck. P.K.
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"I always try to treat the book itself as the artwork," Chris Raschka says. "I don't want you to stop while you're reading one of my books and say, 'Oh! What a gorgeous illustration!' I want you to stop at the end of the book and say, 'This is a good book.' "

Chris Raschka is one of those people who knew from an early age what he wanted to be when he grew up. "It was never a question in my mind,"
More about Chris Raschka...

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“Of all the miserable ways to spend a miserable Saturday morning in the miserable month of January, this had to be the miserablest. In fact, the most miserablest.” 2 likes
“Observation performed merely on its own is no more than what a machine can do—a surveillance camera, for instance. And imagination on its own, practiced by itself for too long, can cut you off from the world. You might wander away, like a hermit to a cave, becoming only a spirit to the rest of humanity. However, if you remain in the world, and you train yourself to combine observation and imagination in proper proportion...then you may change the world itself.” 1 likes
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