We all know Don Freeman for his most famous character, Corduroy, but Norman the Doorman deserves some attention, too! Norman, presumably a dormouse, is literally a door mouse. At the back of the Majestic Museum of Art, Norman stands guard to usher in mice that have come to view the treasures held in the museum’s basement. In his spare time, Norman loves to create his own works of art, and one day he enters one of his sculptures in an art contest at the museum.
Though this is a picture book, it is a story that can be enjoyed by kids of all ages. The illustrations are bright and colorful and your older children will quickly recognize Freeman’s style if they are familiar with the Corduroy stories. Take some time to notice all the hidden detail in the pictures. As you search through the museum exhibits you will see some famous works of art displayed at the Majestic! How many can you find? This would be such a fun book to read before a museum trip or to pull out alongside an art book to see which pieces from the book you can identify!
Norman’s journey from a simple door mouse to an award-winning artist is a sweet one, told with gentleness and humor. Norman is kind and diligent and always works his hardest, whether at his job or at his hobby. He doesn’t have much, but he takes found objects—like mouse traps—and makes them into something beautiful. As in Corduroy, there is a guard who at first seems stern, but then reveals himself to be friendly. When Norman is proclaimed the winner in the wire division, his request for his prize is a simple one: to be able to see the rest of the museum without fear of getting caught. After taking Norman on the tour, the guard delivers him back to his door, where he jumps right back into his job as door mouse again. The story is interesting and fun to read over and over.
There are several instances of word play throughout the story that your older children will find amusing. Of course there is the dormouse/door mouse pun, but there are others to spot, too! Norman’s sculpture of a mouse on a trapeze is made from mouse traps. When he realizes he needs a title for his piece, he takes “trap” from the mouse trap and “eese” from a cheese label and comes up with “Trapeese”—a title that makes him proud! There are also puns hidden in the art work as well as on the last page. These are fun, and with a little help, even your younger kids will enjoy them!
Like Corduroy and Earl the Squirrel, Norman is a character you’ll remember long after you put down the book and one you’ll enjoy meeting again and again. Norman the Doorman would make a great addition to your family’s library!