Item description for Not Exactly Normal by Devin Brown...
Overview From being average in height, of average intelligence, and mediocre in soccer, Todd Farell just doesn't stand out. Now Todd is determined to change, to become someone not exactly normal, and sets out to have a mystical experience.
Publishers Description Each year, the sixth graders at St Luke's Episcopal School finish winter term with their social studies reports. Wanting to make his report special, Todd decides to write about mystical experiences - something not normal. This is a book about being different and about fitting in, and about accepting the differences of others.
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Studio: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 7.2" Width: 4.93" Height: 0.64" Weight: 0.56 lbs.
Release Date Aug 15, 2006
Publisher Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
Grade Level Multiple Grades
ISBN 0802852874 ISBN13 9780802852878
Availability 0 units.
More About Devin Brown
Devin Brown (PhD, University of South Carolina) is a Lilly scholar and professor of English at Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky, where he teaches courses on C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien. He has written, taught, and lectured on Lewis extensively for more than ten years. He has authored a number of books related to Lewis, including Inside Narnia. In 2008 he was invited to serve as scholar-in-residence at the Kilns, Lewis's home in Oxford.
Devin Brown currently resides in Lexington, in the state of Kentucky.
Reviews - What do customers think about Not Exactly Normal?
My 10-year-old son loved this book... Jan 18, 2008
...and I look forward to reading it myself. My son liked the characters and the story line, was intrigued by the name "Nitro," which led to a dynamite conversation, and told me he thought I'd like the book a lot too.
This is a "shimmery" book. Dec 27, 2006
I had the curious experience of meeting Devin Brown before I knew much about "Not Exactly Normal". He was one of the authors at a festival showcasing largely YA books. While I knew practically nothing about the others, I knew that Mr. Brown had previously written a book on Narnia so, when I arrived, I went to the B & N tent and purchased "Not Exactly Normal" (plus two other books). I loved the title at once. It reminded me of a friend-therapist who says that no one is "normal" as we think of the word. We're - everyone - just a little bit a-kilter from that abstract center-point of humanity. (That's a very reassuring observation if you consider yourself to be "unconventional".)
According to the blurb on the back cover, the protagonist (Todd Farrel) sounded like an interesting kid. For a start, his best friend is named Nitro & his dog Cathode. He likes swimming and soccer amongst other things but he's also interested in having a mystical experience. The blurb even mentioned "seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary". Mystical experiences? Yowsa! The book sounded like a far cry from the usual one-note "school story" books.
Well, I managed to miss Mr. Brown's talk at the festival but I was curious about him so decided to wait out the autograph line in order to exchange a few words. When it was my turn, I mumbled something about my own experience with the mystical or "numinous" (as Lewis or Tolkien would have termed it). My words elicited a keen look of ... understanding or ... recognition. I realized that Devin Brown had written from personal experience. (Yowsa #2)
I've read the book with slightly different expectations than the other reviewers maybe, For one thing I was looking for any bit of authenticity in the protagonist's search for the mystical. Yes, I found lots of evidence pointing to experiences with the mystical by the author. At the same time, Todd Farrel and his friends, Nitro and Leda, came across as absolutely realistic. Some scenes were thought-provoking but many evoked nostalgia and some were outrageously funny.
I found Todd's family perhaps a touch too close to the extraordinary family in Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time series and Mr. Phillip's sixth grade class perhaps a trifle close to the class in The Dead Poets' Society. But please don't misunderstand what I'm saying here! I'm not talking about "literary clones" but about an author breathing life into an extraordinary class and family and making them as real as, well, as "normal" ones - whatever they are.
Every word of what I just wrote is backwards, the more I look at it. Really what the author has achieved is showing us the extraordinary in an ordinary classroom teacher and in ordinary family members. He does this throughout the book with various settings and experiences - subtly highlighting brief outdoor scenes, moments of perfect teamwork between soccer players, and encounters between Todd and Leda all of which embody something "other" - something beyond the norm. As Todd says in one case, it was a "shimmery" moment.
This is a "shimmery" book. Maybe I was just lucky, but I found a lot of goofy ordinary school scenes and a lot of shimmery moments long before "the pivotal emergency" near the end of the story.
I hope that you will do so as well. Just keep looking for the extraordinary.
(Oh, take a close look at the moon on the cover. It's not exactly normal. ;)
For Not Exactly Normal Readers Oct 8, 2006
Though the protagonist of this well-written novel is a "normal" sixth grader, I wonder whether the erudite family and school setting he is privileged to have would be something a "typical" American middle-schooler could really relate to. That said, this could be an excellent book for a teacher to read and discuss with a middle school class; parents who regularly read books together with their older kids could also use it as a great discussion starter for all kinds of topics and issues that develop throughout the book.
Any text that includes discussion of John Donne's poetry, background on Good King Wenceslas, Pele and Mia Hamm, and excerpts from T.S. Elliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats in a way that younger readers can understand and even enjoy is definitely to be recommended.
Delightful and refreshingly Not Extactly Normal May 19, 2006
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book! So much of modern literature fails to provide a satisfying ending. You invest time and energy into getting to know the characters, only to have an ending that does not ring true to their traits or story arc. Not so with NOT EXACTLY NORMAL!!!
Mr. Brown artfully finessed the ending to leave you feeling complete and satisfied--in a true storyteller fashion. I felt rewarded for the investment I made in Todd Farrel. Mr. Brown also does an excellent job of conveying weighty, moral topics in a simplistic, easy to digest manner. While undertaking this task it would have been easy to cross the line into pedantic and preachy (many fine authors have slipped across this line), NOT EXACTLY NORMAL never feels that way! Mr. Brown seems to respect the reader and their ability to glean the moral issues rather than hitting you over the head with them.
I also felt the characters were deftly drawn. The kids did age appropriate things, interacted with each other in a realistic fashion and spoke with voices that sounded like sixth graders (and not like an adult man trying to sound like a sixth grader).
I whole-heartedly recommend this book for adults, as well as young adults! In NOT EXACTLY NORMAL, Mr. Brown has refreshed the art of good storytelling.
Great Book for Middle School and Teens Jan 2, 2006
My wife and I very much enjoyed reading Not Exactly Normal. Travel along with Todd Farrell, who is an ordinary 6th grade student going to a private school in a small town. Ordinary events, however, become extraordiary as Todd searches for a mystical experience as a part of his big Social Studies project. The characters are very vibrant and easy to identify with. There are many teaching moments in this book and it would be great for literature and/or religion classes in middle school and high school.