Sylvia Liang
Thames & Hudson

Is there such a thing as normal? The narrator – Normal or Norm for short – of Sylvia Liang’s debut picture book certainly thinks so and he epitomises that normal, he and his friends Plain and Simple. These individuals live in an extremely orderly village, made so because its residents spend much of their time measuring themselves and everything around them, and merely hiding or turning away from wrongly sized items be they animal, vegetable or mineral.

Life with this uniformity is, so we hear, pretty peachy with its set shapes, sizes and times for doing things like partaking of afternoon tea from matching crockery.

One day into this utter normality bursts a yellow bird that leads Norm to meet Odd(ette), a very friendly little lass who lives in a town of boot houses.

Norm’s foray into her far from normal environment is shall we say, shocking, but altogether friendly and in fact, enchanting. With such characters as Clouded Apple sweet maker Eddie with his recipe of apple, sugar and imagination in equal measures; milliner Lady Lily whose hats are adorned with marine animals

as well as Mr King, musical maths teacher and messy Professor John whose stories cause the world to melt away.

It’s young Odd though who has something important to convey to her guest: ‘ if you focus on your ruler all the time … you’ll miss the things that will amaze you in this world.’ And when Norm sets aside his ruler, he discovers to his surprise that it’s true.

But what about his friends back home? Are they open to the possibility of the new and surprising; do they too have the potential to accept the odd change?

This reviewer has always been a rule challenger/subverter, so Sylvia Long’s book really spoke to me, for who can measure the freedom one finds when one loosens the hold on the strictures rules impose.

Let’s celebrate all who find the courage to be a little freer in the way they live their lives.

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