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Lizard LoveReview - Lizard Love
by Wendy Townsend
Front Street, 2008
Review by Amy Ridley
Jul 29th 2008 (Volume 12, Issue 31)

Grace does not like cuddly, furry creatures such as kittens or puppies. She is more comfortable with bullfrogs and snakes. She lives with her grandparents who have a sprawling farm that Grace spends all day scouring for lizards and toads and other reptiles. She is devastated when her mother decides to go to school in New York City and they have to leave the farm.

Grace does not fit in with the cement and bustle of the city. She has no place to explore and look for the creatures that make her relax. She makes one friend at school in spite of herself. Cathy takes an interest in the strange girl with the reptiles painted on her jacket. Grace tolerates Cathy but does not understand Cathy's interest in boys. One day she stumbles upon the Fang and Claw reptile store where she meets Walter, the owner's son. They both share a love for reptiles and Grace goes there every day after school to help feed the pets. She soon falls in love with Spot, an iguana. As her life becomes more complicated, her love for Spot helps her through some very difficult times. She spends the entire school year counting down to the summer when she can return to the farm. She is not prepared for what she finds when she returns to the farm.

As Grace ages in the book and deals with her changing body, she becomes extremely uncomfortable with the reaction she receives from boys in her class and men on the street. Her friend Cathy embraces the changes but Grace is particularly sensitive about it. She lashes out at Walter who is just as awkward as Grace is. The fact that she is made fun of for being different but does nothing to conform to peer pressure to be more "normal" is refreshing. If anything, she perpetuates the teasing by adding more paintings to her iguana jacket. There is a big build up of Grace's emotions and reactions to those around her regarding her changing looks but I was left feeling a bit empty as far as the reason for Grace's distress.

Grace's connection with Spot is fascinating. Readers who have special bonds with their dog or cat will find Grace's distaste for Cathy's dog interesting considering she cuddles the iguana with the same love most people feel for their furry pets. The amount of detail used to describe the iguanas really helps the reader understand the connection Grace has with her pet. It may seem odd to the majority of readers but the descriptions are so vivid, the reader is able to see the beauty in Spot. Townsend clearly knows what she is talking about on the topic of reptiles.

This book is appropriate for ages twelve and up.

© 2008 Amy Ridley

Amy Ridley received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Boston University.


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