Perfectly Norman by Tom Percival

Values: Inclusion, Acceptance, Compassion, Kindness and Peace.

Perfectly Norman is one of Tom Percival's books that I love. I have previously reviewed Ravi's Roar in terms of Values teaching and I love this one just as much.

Perfectly Norman is a crowd pleaser. You can read it to your own children as a story at home, or to a class or even whole-school assembly. I believe it is accessible for children up to Year 6.

In this story, Norman has always been "perfectly normal". Until one day, he grows a pair of huge, colourful wings! He doesn't want to be different and so he wears a big, heavy coat to hide his new wings. It ends up making him miserable as it is hot and he can't do the things he wants to, like swimming. At the end of the story, Norman decides it is the coat and not the wings that is making him unhappy and he throws off his coat. He is free! He swoops and flies and loves his wings. After seeing him some other children decide to drop their coats and expose their beautiful wings too. Norman decides there is no such thing as Perfectly Normal but there is Perfectly Norman, and that's just right.

The Values of inclusion and acceptance are rife in this book. We learn that there is no such thing as normal and that when Norman embraces his difference, he is much happier. When reading this book in assembly, the children of different ages got different messages from it with the older children understanding the implications on Norman's mental health when he is always hiding his difference. Children at school often try to hide their differences as a coping mechanism in order to fit in (as do adults). It is important to teach children the Values of compassion and kindness so that children do not have to worry about being the outsider and what reaction this may attract from others. I believe this book does just that.

Another Value you could use a discussion point is peace in terms of Norman finding peace within himself. Older children may be able to pinpoint how this makes him feel and how his behaviour changes as a result. There is a lot of work happening (quite rightly) about mental wellbeing at the moment in schools and arguably 'self-care' has become a buzz word for the media during Covid-19. This is not a bad thing - but we may be able to talk to older children about how self-care links to mental wellbeing and in turn how this affects our behaviours. Tom Percival cleverly uses black and white images to show when Norman is feeling upset and agitated; colour bursts through the book when he embraces his wings and finds peace with himself. Looking at this illustrative decision can be a useful exercise at home or in school.

These ideas for Values are not exhaustive and you will probably have plenty more ideas after reading this book, but they may form a starting point for a lesson or assembly or even informal chat. I hope you enjoy the book as much as I do. Find it at Waterstones here. You can also see this book being read on Youtube.

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