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Review: Neville by Norton Juster

By Norton Juster
Illustrated by G. Brian Karas

Schwartz & Wade

ISBN: 9780375867651
Grades K-2
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You’re the new kid.

Ugh. Doesn’t that sentence bum you out? We are such social creatures that arriving in an unfamilar place, surrounded by unfamiliar people can throw us into despair and leave a lasting impression. Did you move to a new town as a kid? I did, and I can still remember it like yesterday. In Neville, Norton Juster and G. Brian Karas take a crack at this familiar situation. The results are a charming, clever, and an undeniable success.

A boy arrives in a new town with his family. He is not pleased. About as down-in-the-dumps as they come, the boy’s mother suggests he take a walk around his new neighborhood. On the corner, the boy calls out a name – Neville. Before long, other kids in the neighborhood join in. It becomes a team effort. Although the mysterious Neville never shows, the boy begins to make friends. He returns to his house encouraged. The last page reveals the boy’s name. I bet you can guess what it is.

The ending has the perfect mix of predictability and surprise – kids will feel like they’re in on the secret, which can be a strong hook.

The mixed media illustrations are standard-issue Karas excellence – childlike, yet packed with underlying skill. Beginning on the endpapers (which show the all night journey to the new neighborhood) each illustration serves to enhance the text.

A solid choice for individual reading or for story time settings, Neville is the sort of book that will leave kids smiling. A great sight to see.

Review copy from the publisher.

Watch how G. Brian Karas created the art for Neville:

Also reviewed by Sal’s Fiction Addiction, Shop Talk.

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.