Normal: One Kid’s Extraordinary Journey by Magdalena and Nathaniel Newman

Published by HMH Books for Young Readers

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Summary:  When Nathaniel Newman was born with the craniofacial condition called Treacher Collins, his parents were overwhelmed.  Magda tells how she and her husband struggled to keep Nathaniel alive in his early days when he had to to breathe through a tracheostomy tube and be fed through another tube in his stomach.  She and her husband Russel struggled to give Nathaniel and his younger brother Jacob as normal a childhood as possible. Their lives were affected by the publication of R. J. Palacio’s book Wonder, about a boy much like Nathaniel.  Not only did they get to meet Palacio (who had been influenced in her creation of Auggie by photos of Nathaniel), but they found a greater acceptance from people after the publication of the book.  Despite over 60 surgeries for Nathaniel and two cancer diagnoses for Magda, their family has emerged stronger and with a new definition of the word “normal”. 336 pages; grades 4-8.

Pros:  Those who have read Wonder or seen the movie (which Nathaniel auditioned for) will gain a much greater appreciation for all that Augie and his family had to go through before the opening scene of the story.  Nathaniel’s upbeat, matter-of-fact tone about his life is pretty impressive, and Magda’s honesty about her emotions throughout Nathaniel’s childhood make her a mom many will connect with.  The black-and-white cartoon-style illustrations make a fun addition to the story.

Cons:  The structure of the narrative is a bit disjointed; for instance, Magda alludes to her cancer about halfway through the book, but the story of it (which happened when Nathaniel was 2) doesn’t come until almost the end.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

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