My rating: 4 of 5 stars
There are moments when you finish a book and you know instantly who it’s for. This one, the first in The World of Norm series by Jonathan Meres, is for my nephews. I love my nephews. I love how I once taught them to do “toilet face” in photographs and I love how we can share Pokemon trivia.
And I think this book is a perfect fit for them.
Norm, the eldest of his family, is most put upon. His parents have made them move to a smaller house, his kid brothers are beyond maddening and his neighbour is an annoying girl called Chelsea (don’t say anything, she’s heard it all before).
The production of this book is perhaps most reminiscent of something like Tom Gates or the Wimpy Kid books. It’s a quick read, textually light on many pages but full of some gloriously vivid illustrations by Donough O’Malley. I have a lot of love for books like this and especially when the illustrations both complement the text and challenge it. There are some points where the illustration provides a literal picture of Norm’s imagination and they are beautiful and brilliant. It’s interesting to think about what illustrations like that do – they’re not the easy way out. They form another approach to the story – one of rounding, of fattening the text and of adding a whole new layer to the word. It’s really very smartly done.
I also have the feeling that May Contains Nuts would be one of those books that would be perfect for somebody gaining confidence as a reader as Meres has a great gift of being very much on Norm’s side throughout. I’d defy any world-weary, put-upon, oh-my-god-it’s-the-opposite-sex individual to not giggle with empathic joy at this book.
What I also liked about this was how Meres writes the parents. Norm’s Mum and Dad have that indelibly parent thing about them. There’s some lovely moments where they ‘bust’ Norm and their language layers upon each other like some sort of mecha-parent. It’s really cleverly done and again, smart, as this all happens without us losing empathy for Norm or his family.
Plus there’s a dog named Limahl who gets renamed Simon Cowell.