'It's not just good to be yourself - it's perfect!' Tom Percival on celebrating uniqueness

Published on: 16 November 2017 Author: Tom Percival

Perfectly Norman author Tom Percival says it can be scary feeling different - but we should all celebrate how unique we are.

Perfectly Norman - Tom Percival

Hands up anyone who has ever felt a bit different from the people around them!

I'll bet that there are lots of hands waggling around in the air right now, and if you're not one of those hand-wagglers then it's probably only because you thought you'd feel a bit silly waving your hand on the train or in the bath, or wherever you happen to be.

The thing is, that at some point or another, we ALL feel different from our peers. And when that happens, there are only two options; you can either try to make yourself seem like everyone else, or just take the plunge and go with it.

I wanted to explore how challenging (and sometimes frightening) it can be to take that plunge - to be honest about who you are - but ultimately how rewarding it is too! My new book, Perfectly Norman, features a character who has always been completely normal - perfectly normal, as the saying goes.

When Norman is out on his own and first grows a pair of beautiful, magical wings he is ecstatic! Well, who wouldn't be? He can FLY! He soars high with the birds and swoops around through the air BUT when he is faced with revealing his magnificent wings to his friends and family, he gets very worried and ends up hiding his wings away under a huge coat...

At its core, Perfectly Norman is a story about a child discovering how to celebrate their uniqueness - in turn, inspiring other people to do the same.

Telling Norman's story felt very important and timely to me. There is currently so much emphasis put upon division that it feels important to be having these discussions with our children. Why should we all fit into neat, pre-defined boxes? Why does a difference need to be seen as divisive anyway? A healthy society needs all sorts of different skills, abilities, experiences and outlooks for it to succeed.

So Norman's story is not just about accepting our differences; it's about celebrating and enjoying them too!

Using the magical wings as a metaphor for Norman's difference seemed perfect because they could represent anything - and I wanted the book to be as relatable as possible to all children. Also, who hasn't wished that they could fly?!

As I worked on the story I had a very clear idea of who Norman was, so his character design didn't take very long to come up with at all. I always create a lot of quick sketches as I'm working through the process of writing a story so by the time it comes to creating the artwork for the book I feel as though I know my characters inside out.

Some of my favourite moments in Perfectly Norman are the ones without any words at all; those that happen in the background of the pictures and involve Norman's friends and family - like Norman's relationship with his dog who is always a comfort for him and stands up for him against a bully in one scene.

All in all, I wanted the book to be a celebration of difference and inclusivity and empowerment. I want the children reading it to know that it's not just good to be yourself—it's perfect.

After all, if we can ALL feel different—then what does that say about the idea of being 'normal' anyway?

I'm very proud of Perfectly Norman and I hope that its readers love it as much as I've enjoyed making it.

Read our review

Perfectly Norman

Author: Tom Percival

Norman has always been normal, perfectly normal… So he is very surprised to have wings suddenly one day! This is a sweet and truly uplifting story that celebrates diversity in a subtle but unique way.

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