What The Lizard Said

Nels Hanson (Author), Mandana Talieh (Illustrator)

Publisher: Ewings Publishing Pages: 46 Price: (paperback) $9.99 ISBN: 9781956373509 Reviewed: June, 2023 Author Website: Visit »

This rhyming children’s picture book offers wisdom from various anthropomorphic animals, including a lizard, hen, gopher and turtle.

Jimmi and Wise Dog are canines with a sense of fashion. Wrapped in chic looks that change from page to page, they ponder the different ways they approach the world: “Wise Dog is careful and knows a lot/ but sometimes Jimmi gets tied in knots.” When Jimmi recklessly runs across a busy street, Wise Dog suggests that Jimmi meet some friends he relies on “when I need wisdom that I lack.”

They first meet with a lizard. The lizard tells Jimmi he isn’t concerned that he sheds his tail, as he can simply “grow another.” He then imparts the lesson: “I travel ‘toward’ instead of ‘from,’/ I live and let the past go numb/ and never think of what might have been—I leave my tail/ and start again.” In subsequent pages, other animals similarly offer their perspectives on life.

This is a solid premise, but unfortunately, the execution is problematic. When it comes to the rhymes, the stanzas are often divided in odd places (as in: “…but now we need to ask the/ turtle how he approaches/ certain hurdles.”). This makes for uneven reading and an unpolished presentation.

The illustrations of the strange dog duo seem more appropriate as ironic New Yorker cartoon characters than anthropomorphized animals that a child could love. With white, somewhat human-looking faces and two legs, they barely resemble dogs and seem more spooky than loveable.

Finally, the animals’ advice is often posed in convoluted language. Meanwhile, the gopher, after explaining what it’s like to live underground, doesn’t offer advice at all. Instead, he comments about living in “the other side of light,” which ends the book abruptly.

Such issues make for a puzzling and inconsistent read overall. Revision is required to reach a young audience.

Also available in hardcover and ebook.

Author's Current Residence
Avila Beach, California
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