Animals in Literature

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Not Norman

Not Norman tells the story of a boy who learns the value of his new pet goldfish. At first, the boy is disappointed that his pet, Norman, is just a goldfish. Norman was not the pet he wanted or imagined since fish can’t play fetch, chase toys or be petted. As the story progresses, and the boy spends more time with Norman, he realizes Norman has some great qualities and is a good pet after all.

Why use this book:

  • Students will explore why we should not judge a book by its cover and that sometimes being curious and learning more about something or someone can change your opinion

Ask your students:

  • What was the boy’s first impression of Norman?
  • Look at the illustrations through the book and ask students, “What could the boy do differently to show Norman that he is a responsible pet owner?”
  • “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is a common expression. What does it mean? Did the boy in the story judge the book by its cover? How did the boy’s view of Norman change throughout the book? Why is it important not to “judge a book by its cover”? How can we use this idea when we meet new people?


  • Thought Bubble for Norman – Throughout the story, the boy expresses his feelings about Norman, but Norman has many feelings too! Retell the story from Norman’s point of view by filling in his thought bubbles on this activity sheet. Pay special attention to Norman’s expressions for clues about how he is feeling! Encourage students to share their retelling with a partner.

Not Norman is part of the AnimalTales program. Above, is a small selection of the discussion questions and activities that can be found in the Grade Two Teacher’s Guide. For additional discussion questions and activities request the FREE book-lending program for your class.

Additional Resources Related to Book:

  • NZ SPCA Kids – The New Zealand SPCA has information on all that is required to provide adequate care for a pet fish.


Kelly Bennett, 2008


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