The Normal Kid

October 2012. 242p. 978-0-76138-808-6.
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

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