Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Busybody Nora by Johanna Hurwitz

Interesting transitional books can be tough to find. These short books oftentimes lack character development and interesting plots because they are structured for children that are still decoding words. They tend to have characteristics such as short word meanings, simple vocabulary, and declarative sentences. It takes a special writer that can engage adults as well as children readers at under a hundred pages. Of course, young readers are not as picky or get as bored as adults with children's' books. Many a times I might dislike a book that a child loves - such is just the nature of children's literature. Adults read 'em and write 'em, but the kiddos have to love 'em. And lets face it, what an adult likes is going to be different than a child. This book is going to appeal to both the adult and child. It would make a good read aloud that captures the home-life of  the good-natured six-year-old Nora living in a New York apartment with her younger three-year-old brother, Teddy. Adults will smile at Nora's naivety, while kids will love the bed-bouncing threesome of Nora, Teddy, and their two-year-old neighbor, Russell. A timeless book that is good for grades 2-3.

Nora decides that she wants to learn everyone's name in their apartment building. When she asks a crabby neighbor the woman responds sarcastically, "Mrs. Mind-Your-Own-Business." Nora is confused by the weird name. While the adult meant it as a putdown thinking Nora being too nosy, Nora fortunately does not get it and continues to ask everyone their name. She is the outgoing kid that wants to be like the doorman and know everyone's name in the building. She has no clue that some people like the crabby neighbor think it is impolite to ask and obviously does not like children.

Nora spends the next chapters in various domestic settings with her family from cooking to babysitting before she brainstorms a building party for a neighbor that she loves. Nora's heart is big and she's not afraid to show how much she likes her neighbors whether it is memorizing their names or having a party. My favorite chapters were when Teddy, Nora, and their mother make Stone Soup based on the book. I used to act out so many books and it was wonderful to see the mom jump into the foray and encourage her children's ideas. Dad gets in on the action too with a chapter where Nora and Teddy are making him a birthday present. Teddy is struggling to come up with an idea and his mom suggests building something for his dad from his blocks. Teddy doesn't like this idea because it is not a permanent gift but the mom explains that "Birthdays are happy memories." When the dad comes home and accidentally knocks over Teddy's creation before he can show him, Teddy goes into hysterics. The dad knowingly sits down with Teddy to rebuild it with him and the end result is a happy Teddy spending time with dad and a building grander than the original. The author puts in many authentic moments like this that makes the reader relate with the family.

Another fun chapter is when grandpa is visiting for dinner and becomes the storyteller telling a classic fairy tale but inserting himself into the story. Teddy is particularly enthralled with the story and Nora is engaged too. Both believe their grandpa and it is a wonderful example of adults encouraging children to use their imaginations and believe in the magical. If you are looking for books for the child that is on the cusp of reading chapter books, then I recommend this one with a pinch of pixie dust.

4 Smileys
Fountas & Pinnell N

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