Author Tara Lazar has agreed to participate in our Holiday Book Giveaway Extravaganza with her book NORMAL NORMAN.
All you have to do to get in the running is to leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know the other things you did to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you. Check back to discover the winner.
What is “normal?” That’s the question an eager young scientist, narrating her very first book, hopes to answer. Unfortunately, her exceedingly “normal” subject—an orangutan named Norman—turns out to be exceptionally strange. He speaks English, sleeps in a bed, loves his stuffed toy, goes bananas over pizza, and even deep-sea dives! Oh, no: what’s a “normal” scientist to do? A humorous look at the wackiness that makes us all special— and a gentle reminder that “normal” can’t ever be defined!
Story ideas often strike me in title form. The Monstore, Little Red Glidimg Hood, 7 ATE 9–these all began with a catchy title. That’s all I had for a while, letting the idea simmer in my subconscious.
NORMAL NORMAN began as a title, too. I did not know who he was, but I definitely thought he should NOT be normal. And wouldn’t it be funny if a junior scientist had to define the word normal and was given him as her subject? That is all it took to get me going. The voice of the narrator flew out and I drove her crazy with Norman’s outlandish, out-of-the-ordinary behavior.
There is a point in the story where I even use my own words from sixth grade. So I think the voice is naturally mine, desperately trying to be a good student. (Yes, I was a teacher’s pet.)
When the manuscript first took shape, Norman was NOT a purple orangutan with Warby Parker specs. He was nothing. I did not know what kind of animal he could possibly be, so I left the art note blank. I thought an illustrator would have a far funnier idea of how to draw this crazy character.
My agent had submitted work to Meredith Mundy at Sterling before, but we had been rejected, albeit complimentarily (is that a word???) with an invitation to submit more work. We sent Meredith NORMAL NORMAN and got a quick-for-the-industry response that she really liked it and would take it for next steps. Meredith loves character-driven stories, and this character drives a dune buggy.
Once Meredith bought the manuscript, her first question was–WHAT IS NORMAN? Stubbornly, I still did not know. Zebra? Chinchilla? Armadillo? I told her to leave it to S.britt, the wildly imaginative illustrator.
First, S.britt brought NORMAN to life as a lion. I can see why that was the choice. The original manuscript mentioned a tail. But Meredith and I examined the character and did not FEEL NORMAN-Y. So we asked S.Britt to go back to the drawing board–literally.
The next iteration was a blue lion, but Meredith thought he looked more like a monster. That Norman, too, was scrapped.
Then the real Norman revealed himself, like a contestant on To Tell The Truth. He sat high on a stool and sniffed his nose. The color–bold, layered and dynamic–won me over. So did the glasses. (I am partial to men in glasses. Just ask my bespectacled husband.)
It is strange to think I have other lion-esque characters who were never given a chance to appear in their own book. I feel like they are floating in space somewhere, maybe in my own brain, waiting patiently for their chance to shine. Now if only I could think of a catchy title…
Click here for Normal Norman’s Activity Kit.
Street magic performer. Hog-calling champion. Award-winning ice sculptor. These are all things Tara Lazar has never been. Instead, she writes quirky, humorous picture books featuring magical places that everyone will want to visit.
Her debut THE MONSTORE released in June 2013, with I THOUGHT THIS WAS A BEAR BOOK and LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD following in 2015. NORMAL NORMAN made his entrance in March 2016 and you can stay up WAY PAST BEDTIME in April 2017. If you know the answer to “Why was 6 afraid of 7?” then you’ll love her book 7 ATE 9, coming from Disney*Hyperion in May 2017. She displays her love of fun words in THE WHIZBANG WORDBOOK, an illustrated dictionary and word game tome coming in 2018.
Discover original stories, book reviews and giveaways at her award-winning blog “Writing for Kids (While Raising Them)” at TaraLazar.com.
Tara was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2010. She speaks professionally about overcoming disability to achieve your goals and dreams. Tara has presented writing workshops for The Writers Circle and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conferences. She’s a member of the Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature and a picture book mentor for We Need Diverse Books.
Tara lives in New Jersey with her husband, two daughters and 2,749 stuffed animals.
Thank you Tara for sharing your book’s journey and offering a copy of Normal Norman to one lucky winner.