Norman is a perfectly normal kid who happens to grow wings one day out of nowhere. He has fun using his new wings but his happiness lasts only for a little while. It is soon replaced by anxiety about what his parents and friends would think of him. He hides his wings inside a coat for a few days, not taking the coat off even for a bath. His parents try to gently encourage him to take the coat off but he does not listen to them. Life becomes miserable for Norman until one fine day he snaps out of his own self imposed misery all by himself and embraces himself fully. As Norman flies around freely in the sky, he inspires a few other kids who are also hiding behind their coats to do the same.
What an inspiring story! Often times, from my own experience, I found that children’s books with big, important messages are not as engaging for the little ones. This one grabbed my boys attention right away. They asked me to read it three times on the day they heard it for the first time. They still continue to ask me to read it to them almost every day. We had a couple of short and simple conversations around why Norman tried to hide under the coat and what made him take his coat off. I don’t expect them to fully understand the big messages behind this story yet but I look at it as laying the foundation for many more future conversations. To that effect, I loved this book as much as my four year olds, if not more.
Last but not the least, the art in this book is worth mentioning. It is very clever to paint all the backgrounds and the rest of the characters in gray scale except Norman who is wearing a bright yellow coat. I think it was meant to depict how Norman felt about himself, alone and standing out in a crowd. And how Norman’s internal state was at that time, sad and morose. Then there is a page towards the end where Norman spreads his wings and flies happily. The other kids who were also hiding their wings under their coats like Norman get inspired by this. They also spread their wings and fly like Norman. This is the only page in the book that is not grayscale. It is filled with beautiful colors, which I think depicts how happy the kids are and how happy Norman is. My four year old boys noticed this grayscale vs color difference and asked me why the backgrounds were gray in some pages. As an art lover, I felt that this was a great opportunity for me to discuss the significance of colors and how different colors depict different moods in the world of an artist while also connecting it with the story at hand and talking about how Norman must be feeling, in an age appropriate manner.