Picture books are more than just cute pictures and simple words to read to children before bedtime. They are powerful works of art that can reveal deep truths to people of all ages. Picture books are for everyone.
That's Not Normal! is one such picture book. Written by Mar Pavón and illustrated by Laure du Faÿ, it centers on an elephant with an unusually long trunk, which he twists and bends in unusual ways. He zigzags it into a set of stairs to help Old Monkey climb trees, for example, or curves it into a hammock to rock Little Antelope to sleep. Each time the reader sees just how Elephant uses his very long trunk, an offstage voice yells "That's not normal!" The voice belongs to Hippopotamus, who never forgets to remind Elephant that he and his trunk are not normal, the other animals' appreciation of the pachyderm's kindness notwithstanding.
While preoccupied with Elephant's long trunk one day, Hippopotamus does not notice that Baby Hippo has run off after a bounding grasshopper, straight into a lake full of hungry crocodiles! This is the moment when Hippopotamus learns firsthand how necessary it is to not be "normal." Elephant, through his kindness and bravery, shows all of us how.
Originally published in Spanish and now in an English translation, this book is a fun yet poignant tale of acceptance and being nonjudgmental to those who look or act differently from what we expect, or who do not conform to sometimes calcified norms of what is "normal." If Elephant had a trunk of normal length (according to what Hippopotamus thought was appropriate for an Elephant) that he used in commonly accepted ways, this picture book would have a different ending indeed.
That's Not Normal! would fit in beautifully in a variety of library story times, including ones about animals, kindness, or diversity. In a classroom unit, this book could serve as a springboard for students to write their own animal tales. What can we learn from animals—and people—who dare to stand out?
*This review was adapted from a blog post originally published at the Global Literatures in Libraries Initiative blog.