Norman, Speak! By Caroline Adderson & Qin Leng 32 pages
Like a variation of Sir Mix A Lot’s “Baby Got Back,” - “I like kid’s books that I can’t deny.” J Or more to the point - I like books, it doesn’t matter who they might be geared to if a book looks interesting to me – I’m going to read it. Enter, “Noman, Speak!” What a great story! Poor Norman was in a shelter hoping for a forever home. Norman had been there longest of all the dogs and things weren’t looking too good for him. He was brown and white, had a stump for a tail and had been living on the streets when someone found him and brought him in to the shelter. Since they didn’t know his name they called him Norman. A family came in one day and couldn’t decide which dog to take home when they decided they would go with the dog that was the saddest which was Norman because he had been waiting for a forever home longer than the rest. The mom, dad and son agreed Norman was going home with them he was the one they wanted. When they let him out of his cage, Norman wagged his back side to the left and right so hard he looked like he was doing a hula dance of joy. The young boy set to teaching Norman tricks but Norman didn’t respond. Is he deaf the family wondered? Or could he just not be very smart? He would look at them when they talked to him. He would turn his head and cock an ear up but he just didn’t get what they were saying. He didn’t seem to know his name was Norman, either. They gave up and just accepted that Norman wasn’t too bright. They took him to the dog park one day. Norman started playing and running with a big black dog. When the black dog’s owner called out to him the black dog ran to him and so did Norman. The black dog’s owner gave some commands in another language to his dog and no matter what he asked his dog to do, sit, shake hands, etc. Norman did it too. The man gave his dog a treat then he gave a treat to Norman, too. The family was amazed and went over to the man and the two dogs. The two dogs were listening to the man’s every word. The family didn’t understand a word the man said. Then the man turned to the family and asked if Norman was their dog? They answered that yes he was. The man laughed. He told them their dog understood Chinese and asked if they knew he could do that? The family was amazed and said, “Norman, why didn’t you say so?” They immediately signed up for Chinese lessons the following Saturday. The class was held in a church basement. The boy wanted to bring Norman since he already understood Chinese and they were just beginning, but his Dad said, “No, we can’t take a dog into a church!” The teacher’s name was Mrs. Wang and she would not speak a word in English she only spoke in Chinese. She opened class saying, “Ni hao,” (hello) to which all the students except Norman’s family who hadn’t learned the words, yet, replied, “Ni hao.” (hello) Mrs. Wang then said, “ Wo shi Wang Laoshi.” (My name is Teacher Wang.) The students replied their names were, “Wo shi Emily, Wo Shi Morris,” etc. ( My name is Emily, My name is Morris and so on.) After class the family waited till all of the students had left then talked to Mrs. Wang telling her they did not understand a word of what was going on in class. She gave them a private lesson to catch up. All the way home they practiced the Chinese words they had learned in their heads so they could speak to Norman once they got home. Once they got home Norman was so excited to see them he started doing his hula dance of happiness again. The boy let him lick his face but they had forgotten the Chinese words they had learned that day. The boy told Norman he must be really smart. The family did not feel like they were very smart. They just couldn’t get the words and retain them till they got home to speak them to Norman. They felt as dumb as they had thought Norman was before they learned he could speak a foreign language. They decided that they were friendly and funny but not too smart when it came to picking up a new language but they hung in and persevered week after week trying hard to get it. The boy picked up how to count and how to say the days of the week and how to say, “ Gou lai!” (Come dog or Dog Come) and how to say “Zuoxia.” (Sit.) The family learned to say, “Henhao, Norman!” (Good Norman) because he was a good dog. And then they learned to hug him and say, “Women ai ni, Norman,” (We love you, Norman.), because they do love Norman. So from then on when they would speak Chinese to Norman at the dog park people would come up to them and ask, “what language does your dog speak?” The family would say, “Chinese.” People would be in awe. They would tell the family, “Chinese! It’s so difficult to learn. What a smart dog!” And the family would answer, “He is, but that’s not why we love him.” Great story about how we often sell others short until we truly understand the why behind their behavior. So simple, yet so profound. Don’t jump to conclusions learn the why of a thing before getting judgemental. Great story. And cool bonus – you get to learn some words and phrases in Chinese.