Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Not Norman   
A Goldfish Story
by Kelly Bennett
Illustrated by Noah Z. Jones

Awards: Many! CBC (Children's Book Council) Children's Choice  *:: Toy Portfolio 2006 Gold Medal    *A FamilyFun Magazine Best Children’s Book for 2005    *Booktrust Book of the Month for August 2005    *Texas Institute of Letters Best Children’s Book for 2005

Not Norman is a fun mentor text to use to introduce students (grades 1-3) to the concept of ‘opinion’ and to Opinion Writing.  I would use Not Norman in the “Immersion phase” of Writing Workshop. Several things you could do: When introducing the book, you ask your class a simple question “Would a goldfish make a good pet? Why or Why not?” List the reasons for the different opinions for all to see. You could even use a simple boxes and bullets model. Stress that these ideas are simply the opinion of classmates. Students could be grouped at this point in threes or fours to work on a write up of their opinion to present to the class.

Then read the book to the class.

An amusing addition to this story that students will enjoy: On Kelly Bennett’s website (see below) she has written a similar story, but this time from Norman’s (the fish) point of view /opinion called “Not Curtis”!  An extension of this idea, would be to encourage students to write the story from the viewpoints of Curtis's parents or some of his friends.

Book Talk
Readers meet Curtis as he is receiving his birthday gifts. His ‘big gift’ is….. a pet goldfish! 
Oh no! 

Curtis really, really, REALLY wants a pet —preferably a dog or a cat, but definitely NOT a goldfish.  A goldfish is not what Curtis considers a pet at all!  He wants a pet that  he can interact with and all a goldfish can do is swim around, around, around, around, and around….or so Curtis thinks!

Curtis decides to take Norman back to the pet shop and exchange him for another pet—but he cannot go until Saturday. Something happens in the meantime that Curtis was not anticipating!

Curtis takes Norman for pet show-and-tell day at school.  He tries to proudly tell his class about his fish, but a snake gets loose and that grabs everyone’s attention instead.  Curtis is a bit put-out, feeling everyone was rude to not listen to him about Norman,the fish! 

A favorite line: “Does anyone hear the story of how I got Norman? Does anyone even ask to hold his bowl? No. They’re all jumping and screaming and chasing the snake. Not Norman. He’s looking right at me. ‘Thanks for listening,” I tell him.”

At orchestra practice, Curtis puts Norman on a table nearby as he plays his tuba and Curtis notices that Norman seems to be singing along with the tuba music!  Curtis is thrilled!  

Another favorite line: “ I take out my tuba and begin to play.  I glance over at Norman. He’s swaying back and forth. Glu, glu glu glug, he mouths. ‘Look! Norman’s singing,” I say. “Pay attention!’ snaps Maestro. ‘And try to play the proper notes.’ “

Throughout the rest of the week, Norman proves time and time again that he is the pet and friend that Curtis has been hoping for.  Slowly, Curtis starts noticing, but doesn’t yet realize all this.

He does take Norman back to the pet store—but in the pet store, Curtis feels that none of the other pets measure up to how special Norman is…….and of course, Curtis ends up keeping Norman!

Suggested Uses as a Mentor Text:
Book Genre: Realistic Fiction
Reading Workshop strategies: Predicting, Inferring, Character Development,Connecting, Synthesizing
Writing Workshop genre and strategies: Narrative writing, Personal Narrative,Opinion writing, Character Development

Kelly Bennett’s website:

Noah Z. Jones’s website:

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