When I was a wee Scoots, I had a few authors that I loved. Laura Ingalls Wilder. Judy Blume. John D. Fitzgerald (seriously, The Great Brain books were the best). And when I could get my hands on his books, I loved Daniel Manus Pinkwater. His books were just so crazy and weird, I couldn’t help but love them.
Fat Men From Space. The Hoboken Chicken Emergency. The Avocado of Death. These books were really unlike anything I had every read before. And Lizard Music is stranger than the rest of them.
Daniel Pinkwater is a strange guy. Here’s what his Amazon bio says about him:
Daniel Pinkwater has written about one hundred books, many of them good. Lizard Music was almost the first one he wrote, and remains his personal favorite. It is entirely his own work, and the story that it was discovered as a manuscript inserted in a bale of banana leaves, probably to increase the weight, is merely legend, and without foundation in fact.
But I”m glad that he is such a unique spirit. I’m grateful that I had the chance to read some of these books, and that they clearly helped open my mind to different genres of fiction.
Lizard Music, in a nutshell:
A young boy named Victor finds himself alone for a few weeks during the summer when he is 11. His parents have left him with his older sister, while they visit a resort in Colorado to try and save their marriage. Meanwhile, his sister isn’t all that interested in spending two weeks at home with Victor, and so she leaves with her friends for Cape Cod. Victor doesn’t mind much — he has a pile of cash, a freezer filled with TV dinners, and unlimited access to the TV.
Victor starts having some strange things happen to him. He meets a man on the bus who calls himself the Chicken Man. The Chicken Man keeps a trained chicken named Claudia under his hat, and has her perform tricks for their fellow bus passengers. Victor also notices that suddenly he see lizards just about everywhere. On the evening news. On posters advertising the zoo. And — the most strange thing of all — late at night on tv, after the late movie, he sees a band of lizards playing music every night.
So Victor decides to find out what’s going on. Who are these lizards that can play musical instruments? How are they being broadcast on to his tv? And why doesn’t anybody else seem to know about this or care?
Victor and the Chicken Man (and Claudia, of course) find some answers, and they are all crazy. An invisible island, populated by Walter Cronkite-worshipping lizards, the size of men, all named Reynold. Is that weird enough for you?
I hadn’t read this book since I was about 10 years old, but my 9 year old joemyjoe was finishing it up before school started, so I thought I would revisit it and see if it was as odd as I remembered. And yes, yes, it was.