Not So Normal Norbert
Booklist Reviews 2018 May #2
Pulling the rug out from under a conventional scenario, the protagonist of this latest Jimmy book campaigns to be sent back to his literally gray and dismal police state planet after an illegal display of imagination lands him in a camp for misfits. To be sure, Norbert does have an ulterior motive: to track down his parents, who were arrested years before by the Truth Police. But the 12-year-old exile has a natural talent for improv and a satiric impersonation of the United States of Earth's megalomaniac Loving Leader. In no time, he's hosting a Saturday Night Live–style TV show that becomes a huge hit on two planets and portends (perhaps in sequels) revolution. Loving Leader's big-screen rants clearly tweaks 1984, but even readers unfamiliar with that classic will chortle at the relentless wordplay, a supporting cast made up almost entirely of caricatured grown-ups and young pranksters, and Norbert's winning mix of glibness and gullibility. Aly's scribbly ink-and-wash line drawings add punchlines as well as comical portraits of the major characters. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Like the rest of his canon, Patterson's middle-grade titles fly off the shelves. This latest from his eponymous imprint will do just fine. Grades 4-6. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.
PW Reviews 2018 May #4
Conformity is the ironclad rule on the United State of Earth, where individuality and imagination are banned, and middle school students wearing mandatory gray jumpsuits pledge subservience to the despotic Loving Leader daily. The laws of the land don't sit well with seventh-grader Norbert Riddle, a creative cut-up who has lived with his servile aunt and uncle since his parents were whisked away by the Truth Police. Arrested after doing a mocking impersonation of Loving Leader, Norbert is banished to another planet to live at Astro-Nuts Camp for young earthlings who are deemed "different and dangerous." He attempts to convince the camp honchos that he is a die-hard conformist loyal to Loving Leader, in hopes that he'll be sent back to Earth and find his parents. Buoyed by Aly's boisterous drawings, Norbert's droll wordplay, wisecracking banter, and oddball characters, the comedy reaches farcical heights before careening to an unforeseen conclusion. The authors balance the inanity with real-life, affecting emotion, convincingly depicting Norbert's fright as well as his yearning for his parents. A parting clue that Norbert has another space adventure ahead should get a thumbs-up from readers. Ages 8–12. (July)Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly.