In this wordless picture book, a pet lizard avoids separation anxiety by stowing away in its owner’s backpack on the first day of school.
Frontmatter pages depict the little lizard cuddled up next to the snoozing Mary’s pillow. The lizard wakes the flaxen-haired white child, plainly expecting a day of play, but Mary’s mother (a grown-up version of Mary) gestures urgently at her watch: clearly something is going on. As the lizard waits, puppylike, at the door with leash dangling from its mouth, Mary sadly packs her backpack—so of course the lizard crawls in. Although Mary sternly gestures for it to stay concealed, predictably, the lizard—possibly the cutest iguana anyone ever did see—sneaks out and wreaks mild havoc to the delight of Mary’s racially diverse classmates and displeasure of her hip, black teacher. Harren’s figures are of the “big eyes” aesthetic, though their expressions are largely ones of snub-nosed merriment rather than Gothic gloom. While the specifics of the premise are unusual, the overall story and treatment are not. Children will wonder at the (fairly) matter-of-fact way the teacher orders the lizard out of the classroom—and the way the chagrined but obedient reptile obeys. There is no scolding for Mary, just a mildly exasperated trip to the school for her mom, who leashes the lizard up and drags it home.
Cute but a little muddled and ultimately failing to break new ground. (Picture book. 3-7)