A picture-book paean to individuality.
Norm, short for Normal, is pretty much just like his pals, Plain and Simple. They live in a village where everything is “very tidy and orderly” and their favorite thing to do is measure things with the rulers they carry about with them. If something doesn’t measure up to usual dimensions, they get rid of it. And worse, “[i]f someone stands out, we politely look the other way.” The image accompanying this line shows a redheaded person standing apart from the black-haired Norm, Plain, and Simple, with downcast eyes. A challenge to this world’s conformity arrives with a bright yellow bird that “won’t sit still long enough to be measured.” Norm chases it to “an extraordinarily big flower,” and nearby is a girl who he says is “unlike any girl I have met before.” Her name is Odette, Odd for short, and she introduces Norm to a whole new world, where houses look like boots, anthropomorphic animals interact with people, and instead of measuring things, the focus is on “discover[ing] the most curious surprises.” While the verbal storytelling is a bit clunky and risks letting message trump narrative, the illustrations offer a visual feast. Whimsical details crop up on each spread, and Liang’s playful style seems influenced by illustrators such as John Burningham, Jean de Brunhoff, and Květa Pacovská.
Delightful. (Picture book. 4-7)