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LIZARD by Dennis Covington


by Dennis Covington

Pub Date: June 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-385-30307-6
Publisher: Delacorte

Walleyed and misshapen, Lucius (``Lizard'') looks bizarre; at 13, he's never been to a regular school. Now the guardian he calls ``Miss Cooley'' dumps him at a Louisiana state school for retarded boys. Callahan and Sallie, down-and-out actors who come to the school to enact Treasure Island, spirit him away to Birmingham to join a ragged troupe as Caliban in The Tempest. Along the way, Lizard makes friends with Rain and her brother Sammy, two black kids who have lived alone since their mother's death and hope to be rescued from their abusive preacher- guardian. Throughout his modestly understated narrative, Lizard is quietly discovering who he really is. He never quite understands Shakespeare's words, but learns their meaning and turns in a creditable, resourceful performance; he stands up to the alcoholic Callahan, weathers their battles, and finally finds in him a kind of father figure; he tastes happiness during a playful swim with Rain and Sammy, trades stories with them, and establishes a mutual trust that sustains them all later. Lizard lives in a cruel world where adults are often harsh and unjust to the young (like Prospero to Caliban), yet he focuses on the generous spirits he encounters and manages to evoke the best in some others: in a gesture of reconciliation, he even goes back, at least temporarily, to Miss Cooley, who turns out to be his mother. A first novel (Eighth Annual Delacorte Press Prize) with a fresh, memorably sweet picture of its offbeat characters and singular, compelling events. (Fiction. 12+)