A wholesome, down-home children’s book, with fine illustrations and a kid-friendly moral.

The Legend of Lizard Lick


A delightful folk tale for children about friendship, forgiveness and how Lizard Lick, N.C., got its name.

Matthews’ debut children’s book tells the story of the amusingly named little town of Lizard Lick, a real-life town in North Carolina. The true origins of the town’s name are shrouded in mystery (and may have something to do with moonshine and thirsty lizards), but Matthews invents a fun, imaginative folk-inspired version of its origin. Young Carson asks his grandfather, Papa Richard, how Lizard Lick got its funny name. Papa Richard tells that once, there were two types of folk living by Sweetwater Pond: the Lizards and the Frogs. On the edge of the pond, the Lizards were led by Mayor Walla and their police chief, Broadhead Billy; out on the lily pads, the Frogs of Frogville follow Mayor Hairy Frog and their own top cop, Bullfrogger. Harmony and friendship reign in Sweetwater Pond until a drought hits; as resources dwindle, the Frogs decide that the pond isn’t big enough for both them and the Lizards. To decide who will have ownership over the pond and who will have to leave, the Frogs challenge the Lizards to a sports competition, which includes events such as the long jump, a 10-meter run and a tug of war. The ensuing contest is sure to keep children on the edges of their seats, but the title might give the game away; as Papa Richard says, “It was because the lizards licked the frogs.” But Matthews’ tale isn’t about winners and losers, but about the power of forgiveness, the importance of sharing, and the good karma that comes from playing fair and square. The author’s easy-to-read, descriptive prose is accompanied by Taylor’s beautiful watercolor illustrations that colorfully and wonderfully develop the story’s world and characters. The Frogs and Lizards are rendered in exquisite detail, with humanlike expressions, while still retaining their animal qualities, and the backgrounds will give young readers a great sense of the North Carolina landscape.

A wholesome, down-home children’s book, with fine illustrations and a kid-friendly moral.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2013

ISBN: 978-1479382477

Page Count: 36

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2013

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Utterly believable, this bittersweet story, complete with an author’s note identifying the real Ivan, will inspire a new...

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How Ivan confronts his harrowing past yet stays true to his nature exemplifies everything youngsters need to know about courage.

Living in a "domain" of glass, metal and cement at the Big Top Mall, Ivan sometimes forgets whether to act like a gorilla or a human—except Ivan does not think much of humans. He describes their behavior as frantic, whereas he is a peaceful artist. Fittingly, Ivan narrates his tale in short, image-rich sentences and acute, sometimes humorous, observations that are all the more heartbreaking for their simple delivery. His sorrow is palpable, but he stoically endures the cruelty of humans until Ruby the baby elephant is abused. In a pivotal scene, Ivan finally admits his domain is a cage, and rather than let Ruby live and die in grim circumstances, he promises to save her. In order to express his plea in a painting, Ivan must bravely face buried memories of the lush jungle, his family and their brutal murder, which is recounted in a brief, powerful chapter sure to arouse readers’ passions. In a compelling ending, the more challenging question Applegate poses is whether or not Ivan will remember what it was like to be a gorilla. Spot art captures poignant moments throughout.

Utterly believable, this bittersweet story, complete with an author’s note identifying the real Ivan, will inspire a new generation of advocates. (author’s note) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-199225-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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Hee haw.

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The print version of a knee-slapping cumulative ditty.

In the song, Smith meets a donkey on the road. It is three-legged, and so a “wonky donkey” that, on further examination, has but one eye and so is a “winky wonky donkey” with a taste for country music and therefore a “honky-tonky winky wonky donkey,” and so on to a final characterization as a “spunky hanky-panky cranky stinky-dinky lanky honky-tonky winky wonky donkey.” A free musical recording (of this version, anyway—the author’s website hints at an adults-only version of the song) is available from the publisher and elsewhere online. Even though the book has no included soundtrack, the sly, high-spirited, eye patch–sporting donkey that grins, winks, farts, and clumps its way through the song on a prosthetic metal hoof in Cowley’s informal watercolors supplies comical visual flourishes for the silly wordplay. Look for ready guffaws from young audiences, whether read or sung, though those attuned to disability stereotypes may find themselves wincing instead or as well.

Hee haw. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: May 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-545-26124-1

Page Count: 26

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2018

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