Review Blog

Jun 12 2018

Norton took something by John Dickson

cover image

Berbay Publishing, 2018. ISBN 9780994384140
(Age: 5-7) Recommended. Theme: Honesty. This is a first chapter book for independent readers with large text and black and white illustrations on most pages. The story starts with Norton secretly taking something special from his sister (we are left in the dark about what it is and why he takes it, which only helps to make it easier for readers to place themselves within the story). His sister April, devastated by the loss of her lucky charm, turns into a 'big pile of sadness'. Norton is sad too 'because he had made a special thing-sized hole in his sister's life and she had filled it with tears and anger'. Norton wants everyone to be happy again but he does not want his sister 'to see him as someone-who-steals-things'. He decides to bury the thing so he is not reminded of what he has done, but this does not work. He still feels bad and doesn't know how to make it stop; it creeps into his mind at the strangest of times, blocking his learning and borrowing his hunger. Finally, after a discussion with his teddy bear, Norton decides he needs to say sorry and give the thing back to April. Yes, April is angry but eventually they hug it out and everybody ends up feeling really good.
The strength of this story is its insightful way of describing emotional behaviour and feelings in a way that is tangible and visual ('She held her breath, let it out, then held it again. Her face looked like it was on fire.') We do not see or know what the thing is; just that it brings joy not just to April but also to everyone else. This means that children can imagine the thing as something that is special to them, placing themselves into both Norton and his sister's shoes. It emphasises that it is OK to make mistakes but that it is better to own up to what we have done or our conscience won't let us move on. Norton's family are so supportive and model to children and parents appropriate, yet realistic behaviours.
Nicole Smith-Forrest

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