ParaNorman Review
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The ghostly animated adventure ParaNorman definitely isn’t lacking in book adaptations; there are various versions for kids of all ages and reading levels. But if you want to get the whole story, you’ll have to pick up the full novel adaptation by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel.

Eleven-year-old Norman Babcock isn’t normal. Just ask anyone who lives in the small New England town of Blithe Hollow—even Norman’s dad. No one believes that Norman can talk to the dead, but he can’t seem to escape them. They pop up everywhere, asking him to pass messages along to the living. The living, meanwhile, tend to avoid Norman whenever they can—because they think he’s just plain weird.

As it turns out, though, the living residents of Blithe Hollow might just need Norman’s help. According to Norman’s crazy old great-uncle, an evil witch has put a curse on the town—and, thanks to his special abilities, only Norman can stop her.

It may be filled with tales of ghosts and zombies and vengeful witches, but ParaNorman isn’t really the nightmare-inducing horror-fest that you might expect. Sure, the town of Blithe Hollow is best known for condemning a woman to death for witchcraft—an event that the town celebrates with gusto each year. And, as the witch sets out to exact her revenge on the townspeople, the characters find themselves racing through the cemetery, chased by the undead. Still, most of the ghosts here are perfectly harmless (and sometimes downright funny—like Norman’s straight-talking grandma). And both the band of pilgrim zombies and the angry witch, while pretty scary at first, turn out to be sympathetic characters in their own, other-worldly way.

Author Elizabeth Cody Kimmel also gives the book a light and easy-going tone that’s perfectly suited for young readers. So while there’s plenty of paranormal action and suspense, it’s presented in an entertaining way that will most likely stave off any zombie-filled nightmares.

The quirky characters, meanwhile, add to the fun. Though Norman is rather moody and standoffish in the beginning—avoiding other people almost as much as they avoid him—he eventually grows into a lovable young hero. By the end of the story, he manages to stand up for himself and face his fears. He even makes a few friends in the process—friends like enthusiastic Neil and brainy Salma. And although his obnoxious big sister, Courtney, is really more interested in boys (and covering her own butt) than in her weird little brother, even she learns to appreciate his differences in the end.

Kids will love ParaNorman for its adorably oddball characters and its spooky suspense. At the same time, though, they’ll also learn a subtle lesson about embracing the things that make them—and other people—different. And that makes it a worthwhile read—one that parents and kids can enjoy together.

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