Animals in Literature

Home » Books about Animals » Norman, Speak!

Norman, Speak!

Norman, Speak! is a story about a boy and his family who adopt a dog named Norman from their local animal shelter. After bringing Norman home and trying to teach him cues, they discover that Norman doesn’t respond to them, or even to his own name. One day, while playing at the park with another dog, Norman’s family learns that Norman has been confused because he doesn’t understand English – he actually “speaks” Chinese! Determined to understand and communicate with Norman, the family enrolls in a Chinese language class.

Why use this book?

  • Students will explore the different ways people and animals can communicate
  • Students can discuss how labelling animals and people can have negative impacts
  • Students can practise considering another’s perspective to build empathy

Ask your students:

  • How do you communicate with pets? Talking, body language, hand signals, etc.
  • How do pets (and all animals) communicate with people? Body language, vocalization, behaviour.
  • Why is it important to communicate with your pet?
  • Do you think Norman is less fun to be around because he doesn’t understand English?
  • Have you ever met someone who doesn’t speak the same language as you? Was it harder to communicate with them? How did you work things out?
  • How do you think Norman felt when his family couldn’t understand him? How do you think his family felt?
  • Have you tried to learn a different language? Did you find it easy or difficult?


  • Students, Draw! – As a class watch the Illustrator Demonstration video. Encourage students to pay attention to how Qin Leng describes her drawing process. Ask students:
    • What does the illustrator, Qin Leng use to come up with a character/illustration?
    • How did she decide on how Norman would look?
    • What are some reasons, Qin Leng, gives for some of her illustrative decisions?
    • If you could ‘design’ a pet for yourself, what would it look like? What physical characteristics would you want your pet to have and why?
  • Building on the discussion, have students ‘design’ their ideal pet. Students can generate ideas to help plan their drawing. Like Qin Leng, encourage students to use their imagination and characteristics of animals they have seen before to come up with their illustration. The pet could be as realistic or as imaginative as students like!
  • Then, have students draw their pet. After they finish their drawing, have students write a short paragraph describing their illustration including rationale for their artistic expression.

Norman, Speak! is part of the AnimalTales program. Above, is a small selection of the discussion questions and activities that can be found in the Grade Five Teacher’s Guide. For additional discussion questions and activities request the FREE book lending program for your class.

Resources Related to Book:


Caroline Adderson & Qin Leng, 2014


Featured Reading

E-news Sign Up

Subscribe to our monthly e-news for activities, ideas and information on integrating humane education into your classroom!