The Funny Thing about Norman Foreman

by Julietta Henderson

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LoveReading Expert Review of The Funny Thing about Norman Foreman

An absolute delight of a debut, 12 year old Norman Foreman is a joyfully unforgettable character.

Our May 2021 Book Club Recommendation.

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This is one of the most squeezable and loveable books going, yet it comes with sharp and poignant notes as well as a dancing wit and humour. Norman’s best friend and comedy partner dies before they turn 12, in his grief Norman decides he’s going to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe, and his mum Sadie is determined to help him. The focus here is on family and the many different forms it can take. Chapters are headed by either Norman or Sadie, each has the most wonderfully distinctive voice. Julietta Henderson has created a cast of beautifully individual characters, they walk off the page, with little snippets of information filling in their spirit and letting you see who they truly are. Norman is a complete joy to get to know, he entered my heart and let me see with fresh eyes. There is an exquisite balance here, between heartache and warmth, piercing and diverting, amusing and engaging. The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman proclaims that empathy and kindness are winning combinations and is completely gorgeous in every way. This LoveReading Star Book is an absolute delight of a debut, it will be one of my highlights of the year.

Liz Robinson

The Funny Thing about Norman Foreman Synopsis

What do you get when you cross a painfully awkward son, lofty comedic ambition and a dead best friend? Norman.

Norman and Jax are a legendary comedic duo in waiting, with a five-year plan to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe by the time they're fifteen. But when Jax dies before they turn twelve, Norman decides paying tribute to his best friend just can't wait... so he rewrites their plan:

1. Look after mum | 2. Find Dad | 3. Get to the Edinburgh Fringe

Sadie knows she's never going to win Mother of the Year, and not knowing exactly who her son's father is doesn't help. But when she finds Norman's new plan, all she wants is to see her son smile again... So they set off on a pilgrimage to Edinburgh, making a few stops to find Norman's dad along the way.

The Funny Thing about Norman Foreman is an inspiring feel-good novel about a small boy with a big heart - and even bigger dreams.

What To Read After The Funny Thing about Norman Foreman

Are We Having Fun Yet?
The Reading List
Tiny Tales
The Wife Who Got a Life

The Funny Thing about Norman Foreman Reader Reviews

In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion some of our Reader Review Panel were also lucky enough to read and review this title.

What a brilliant book. Heart-warming and funny, and full of charm.

How do you become a comedy genius when the funnier part of your act dies and leaves you alone with just a book of comedy rules and a box of post it notes. How do you, a twelve year old boy, pick yourself up and embark on a journey to fulfil your dreams alone? This heart-warming, charming book charts Norman’s journey, from child to comedy genius in one road trip. With plenty of laughs along the way, and tender moments where you just want to hold him tight and tell him it will all be ok. He is finding his feet without his best friend at his side, and it’s a trip you just want to follow along for the ride. 

What a brilliant book. Heart-warming and funny, and full of charm. I fell in love with Norman from the first chapter and as we follow his journey you just can’t help cheering him on and wanting him to succeed. Norman has lost his best friend, his only friend. His comedic sidekick. He isn’t sure how he’s supposed to carry on. But with a revised five year plan, a willing elderly man accomplice, and a mum who loves him more than the whole world, Norman can accomplish anything. You will smile, laugh, cry and overall just totally enjoy reading every minute of this wonderful book. It was just the book I needed to read.


This was a really fun and entertaining book that I enjoyed very much. I would happily recommend this debut novel to anyone looking for a funny light-hearted read about family, love and friendship.

The Funny Thing about Norman Foreman follows 12 year old Norman and his mum Sadie. Norman and his best friend Jax love comedy and they set themselves a goal in their 5 year plan that they will perform at the Edinburgh Fringe. But sadly, Jax dies unexpectedly and Norman and his mum are both left heartbroken. However, Norman’s mum Sadie decides she’s going to help Norman get to Fringe, and decides to take him on a road trip from Cornwall to Edinburgh in the hope that he will be able to fulfil his dream. Of course, the road trip isn’t as straight forward as Sadie was hoping.

This is a wonderfully written book, that is told through alternating chapters from the POV’S from Norman and Sadie. It did take me a few chapters to get into the book but once I got going it turned out to be a fun read that I really needed without realising.

I loved the characters, they are really well written and developed into believable and relatable characters as the book progresses and we get to learn more about the characters. The side characters where also enjoyable to read about. I fell in love with Norman’s character from the start. He comes across as fragile but is so resilient and brave. He seems to take everything in his stride. Sadie on the other hand I wasn’t sure about at first but as I read on and learnt more about her background I could see she was a wonderful mum who is loves her son very much and wants the best for him, even if that means shielding him from the world.

Although the story was a little predictable in places this was a really fun and entertaining book that I enjoyed very much. I would happily recommend this debut novel to anyone looking for a funny light-hearted read about family, love and friendship.


Pulls at your heart strings and whacks your funny bone.

Right from the outset I was captivated and remained so till the end. Julietta Henderson’s immersive detail of the lives of Norman and his mother Sadie are so natural and well executed that you feel you know them completely. Add in Leonard and the journey becomes delightful, sad, funny and heart wrenching throughout. The flaws in each of their personalities are dealt with in a sensitive and humorous way and I’m waiting for the Edinburgh Fringe to book my seat. Thoroughly enjoyed this and would definitely recommend.

Heather Byrne

The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman is a joyous read told with heart, warmth and humour. Readers will be both moved and uplifted by Norman's story. He's simply unforgettable.

I absolutely loved this book and the characters of Sadie and Norman. Even Jax, although he has died by the beginning of the book, is a huge presence throughout and I couldn’t help but have a soft spot for this lovable rogue - 'the Rolls-Bloody-Royce of best friends'. The love which Sadie has for her son just shines through even though she is so insecure about her abilities as a mum. To Norman, of course, she is simply the best mum in the world. This is a story told with so much heart, warmth and humour that you just can't help but want Norman to achieve his dream however unlikely that may seem. The characters the trio of Sadie, Norman and Leonard meet on their pilgrimage all added to the story in their own ways and all helped Sadie and Norman in some way.

The author has written about grief and the shock of losing someone suddenly and unexpectedly in a very perceptive way. Although Sadie and Norman are both grieving, their determination to honour Jax's memory pushed them on to do more than they probably thought they could. Through their sadness, there were chinks of light and the love they had for each other was so touching. This is a wonderfully joyous read about finding courage and friends in unexpected places. I don't think anyone who reads it could fail to be both moved and uplifted by Norman's story. He is simply unforgettable.

Joanne Baird

A quirky, loveable, warm and funny journey with characters you can't help but recognise and feel for.

Heart-breaking and heart-warming, genuinely funny mother-son adventure.

I was swept up in each of these two narrations - the story grabs your heart straight away and gives it a tentative squeeze, then never quite lets go of the wringing... Norman's best friend has died. Aged 11. Yes, 11. The pair of them had a plan - to hone their double act, study the comic greats, and perform at the Edinburgh Fringe. Well, Jax and his larger-than-life personality may not be around any more, but Norman is, and he wants to honour his best friend. Even if he was the straight man of the pair with no comic timing whatsoever.

Norman's mum Sadie is devastated for her son. Already struggling with self-doubt and psoriasis, he's got HER for a mother, the woman who forgets all his appointments and doesn't even know which of four possibles was his actual father. Yes, 4.

But she knows his dream. And impulsively, she promises to help him fulfil it. Oh yes, and find his real dad for him as well.

With an 80-something colleague, a Google search and a car, they are off on a road trip round the country in search of fathers, venues and punchlines.

This is the sort of book you recognise early on for what it will be - a quirky, loveable, warm and funny journey with characters you can't help but recognise and feel for. The multiple set-pieces that bring adventure and surprise mount up, with some truly insane moments at times, and the back and forth between mother and son does work wonderfully for showing each viewpoint and the contradictory views. I empathised more with the mother, but enjoyed the growth of Norman more as a pre-adolescent.

A wonderful debut that won't fail to touch you.

Katy Noyes

Heart breaking and heart warming in equal measures, I loved it!

This book grabbed me from the first few pages and tore at my heart strings. The narrative alternates between Norman, a twelve year old boy and his Mum, Sadie who is a single mother. They are both grieving the loss of Norman’s friend, Jax who was his best friend and the only true friend Norman has had in his childhood so far.

Norman and Jax had made great plans to be a comedy duo and perform at the Edinburgh Fringe. Sadly, as Jax could never put that plan into action, Norman decides to go ahead anyway with the plan in Jax’s memory. Norman, his Mum and his Mum’s colleague Leonard set off on the journey to Edinburgh with some stops along the way in order for Norman to practice. The trouble is, as much as Norman tries, he just doesn’t have the comedic talent that Jax had, this leads onto some very awkward and excruciating performances!

From the outset, I loved these two characters; they made me laugh, smile, cringe and feel sad for them all within a few pages. A beautifully written, feel good, coming of age story, highly recommended.

Nicola Coen

Fantastic book, I didn't want to end. It's funny, it's emotional, great characters, great storyline I want more.

The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman is a fantastic read. It will certainly take you on an emotional roller-coaster - one minute your feeling heartbroken the next laughing away quietly to yourself (well not always so quiet and people end up staring at you weirdly). I actually didn't want the story to end.

This book was well written, had fantastic relatable characters and shall be one I will recommend. I'm off to Google Julietta Henderson to order any other books she may have written.

Krissy Rix

Julietta Henderson Press Reviews

What a charming, funny and cheering read... that tickles and moves in equal measure. The writing is sharp but tender' - Beth Morrey

One of those gorgeous books that completely lifts your spirits and restores your faith in humanity. An utterly lovely tale. - Ruth Jones

Charming, warm, and uplifting... Julietta Henderson's quirky, lovable characters also offer profound meditations on family, friendship, grief, disability, illness, and aging, all told with heart, humor, and wisdom. There is so much to love about this book. - Laurie Frankel, New York Times bestselling author of THIS IS HOW IT ALWAYS IS

What a delightful read! This book is about what's really important: caring for each other and finding ways through the problems life throws at us, no matter how terrible they can be. The story is both hilarious and heart-warming, with one 'helluva' brave, wise, and lovable twelve-year-old hero... Three cheers for Norman Foreman! - Hazel Prior, author of AWAY WITH THE PENGUINS

The funny thing about Norman Foreman is that he's wheedled his way into my heart, and I suspect I'll have a Norman shaped hole there forever. - Clare Pooley, author of THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

Other editions of this book

ISBN: 9781787633506
Publication date: 29/04/2021
Format: Hardback

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About Julietta Henderson

Julietta Henderson grew up in the rainforests of North Queensland, Australia. Like many Australians, her love affair with Europe began when she came to London on a working holiday and stayed for more than a decade. Now a full-time writer, Julietta divides her life between Melbourne, the UK and wherever she can find winter.

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