Ages: 8 - 12Producer: Hachette Audio


“Different is your destiny,” says one character to 12-year-old Norbert. And that’s a crime, literally, because our hero, Norbert Riddle, is living in an oppressive time on Earth when a dictator rules everything, everyone wears gray, and no one must ever stand out in any way. “Different” is bad. And imagination is insanity.

Norbert, however, is clever and tends to not take rules very seriously. One day in class he delivers a funny impression of Loving Leader (the dictator) and as soon as he finishes, he’s dragged off by the truth police. From there, he’s sent to planet Zorquat, 3 with other rule-breakers to live in the Astronuts camp. All the while, Norbert wants to go home, he says. He longs for the routine of life with his aunt and uncle, and he wants to find his parents, who were similarly dragged off years earlier.

What Norbert realizes is that “different” is really good and imagination far from insane. The Astronuts “camp” is full of creative kids who want to write and play music and put on shows for the other campers. The message: Dare to be different. You —and the world —will be better for it.

Talented and proficient narrator Michael Crouch’s Norbert is filled with innocence and a touch of twinkle, making the main character instantly loveable, as he deserves to be. Crouch’s range includes the imperious Loving Leader, “Mean old” Mrs. Hurlbut, Norbert’s teacher who is creaky and cranky-sounding, making the already fun story even fun-er.

Ann Oldenburg ©2018 Parents’ Choice

Ann Oldenburg, lecturer and interim director of the journalism program at Georgetown University, writes about television, food, workplace issues and other pop culture topics. A University of Florida Gator with a degree in journalism, she began her career at The Washington Post and spent more than two decades with USA TODAY. She and her husband have three sons and live in McLean, Virginia.