Normal: One Kid’s Extraordinary Journey

HMH. Jan. 2020. 336p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781328631831.
Gr 5 Up–Nathaniel Newman went swimming “normally” for the first time when he was 13 years old. He could put his head under the water and not worry about water flooding his trach (a breathing tube). Nathaniel was born with Treacher Collins Syndrome and needed a tracheostomy to breathe. When he was 12, he decided to undergo a yearlong process (a massive surgery and countless additional procedures, including wearing a cage around his head for six months) to enable him to breathe without a tube. The surgery was successful. Treacher Collins is the syndrome that the fictional character Auggie has in R.J. Palacio’s Wonder, and Nathaniel’s photo, hanging on the wall at the Center for Craniofacial Care at NYU Langone Hospital, was the author’s inspiration for the character. Nathaniel and his family spent time on the set for the movie adaptation of Wonder and provided insight for the actors. Nathaniel and his mother have written a powerful and honest memoir together; chapters are narrated by both of them in alternating sections. Nathaniel describes his multiple surgeries, relays his love of superheroes, and captures his very typical relationship with his younger brother while his mother shares the realities of parenting a child with very complex medical needs.
VERDICT Recommended for middle school libraries. Nathaniel and his mother tell a compelling story, but when coupled with additional information about the much-beloved book Wonder (and the movie), this title is sure to fly off the shelves.

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