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The Normal Kid

The Normal Kid

by Elizabeth Holmes

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Holmes (Tracktown Summer), in her third middle-grade novel, explores what it means to be an outsider through two distinctive voices. Though 10-year-old Sylvan is mocked by his fellow fifth graders for participating in environmental protests with his hippie mother, he insists that he's nothing like the two indisputable weirdoes in his class, Charity and Brian. Charity, whose family of missionaries has just returned to New York from Kenya in defeat, now feels like a stranger in her home country—she doesn't wear the right clothes and doesn't say the right things. When class presentations and the threat of losing a supportive teacher bring together Sylvan, Charity, and Brian (a highly intelligent loner with Asperger's-like characteristics), they develop a connection that is built on the individuality that sets them apart. Holmes constructs a sturdy story that examines preconceptions and the sting of social rejection, combined with credible character development. Sylvan and Charity's alternating perspectives reveal how taking chances on friendships can broaden and enrich one's awareness of the world. Ages 8–12. Agent: Sarah Crowe, Harvey Klinger. (Oct.)
Kirkus Reviews
In a changing world, what can "normal" mean? Lately, change has rocked Sylvan's world--and not in a good way: family breakup, an embarrassing newspaper photo and now a new fifth-grade teacher. Sylvan tells himself he's a "normal, average, everyday kid." Sylvan's classmate and co-narrator, Charity, has bigger changes to process: Her missionary dad's abruptly returned the family to the States after five years in rural Kenya. Now he works as a house painter and won't say grace. Charity's classmates think she's weird to shake hands with their teacher, but next to Brian, she is normal. Brian, on the autism spectrum (his depiction is realistic and low-key), makes loud noises in class, avoids eye contact and spends hours alone jumping on his trampoline. This well-told story captures a pivotal life experience: What we've assumed was permanent, bedrock reality can shift beneath us without warning. "Normal" changes. If it's a tough lesson, it's also liberating. Sylvan's mom drags him with her to protest demonstrations (hence that embarrassing photo). That's her normal--but is it Sylvan's? Charity's beliefs are her own, to keep or lose, whatever her dad believes. Pre-adolescent angst--funny, perplexing humiliating--is perennially fertile ground for middle-grade fiction. Holmes shows us where it comes from and where it can take us if we let it. (Fiction. 8-12)
School Library Journal
Gr 4�6—On the first day of fifth grade, two new kids walk into Sylvan's class and he thinks that they are both weird. Charity, having just returned from several years in Kenya, earns the nickname Preacher Girl for her religious upbringing and odd questions. Brian, known as the Trampoline Kid, behaves strangely, often making loud noises and constantly fidgeting. Sylvan, who beat up a fellow classmate last term, wants nothing more than to be considered normal. His mother, a social activist, doesn't make it easy for him, making him join her causes and picket lines. Then he's forced to socialize with Charity when their mothers become friends, and his teacher, Mr. In, pairs him with Brian for a social-studies class project. Intrigued by Charity's vibrant and complex past and youthful enough to want to join Brian on his trampoline, Sylvan empathizes and matures alongside these two different but good classmates. When the children think that their beloved teacher's position is in jeopardy, they bring their classmates together in an effort to save it. Sylvan and Charity take turns narrating, and readers will understand and relate to the social pressure they struggle to navigate and their desire to fit in.—Nicole Politi, The Ocean County Library, Lavallette, NJ

Product Details

Lerner Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 7.60(h) x 1.10(d)
780L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

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