Lizard Music
D. Manus Pinkwater
Dodd, Mead, 1976

Of course, D. Manus Pinkwater is Daniel Pinkwater. This was only his second chapter book written for kids, Wingman being the first. To some extent he was still getting his footing, and Lizard Music is admittedly not his finest work.

This is the story of a young boy, Victor, who is left alone at home with his older sister while his parents are on vacation. His sister, not the most responsible of siblings, soon decides to leave on a trip of her own. Left on his own, Victor spends his time making model airplanes, feasting on anchovy pizzas, and watching the evening news. He's not the most exciting kid.

This changes, however, when he starts to notice some odd happenings. He catches lizards playing alien music on TV after regular programming hours. A man with a chicken on his head and a number of aliases starts to appear in random places. Pod people start appearing on the television. In a desperate attempt to save civilization from at least one alien invasion, Victor heads out to find answers.

As with all of Pinkwater's books, the plot is mostly a contest that the author holds with himself to find the biggest shark humanly possible, and jump it. Generally, that is the charm of a Pinkwater novel, but in this case it is a bit annoying. The build-up is a bit slow, the climax is a bit anticlimactic, and we never really figure out what is going on or will happen in the future. This reads like the first book in a trilogy, but sadly no further books were ever written on the lizards.

Altogether, this book is certainly worth reading if you are a Pinkwater fan, but I wouldn't recommend it otherwise. It is worth noting that not everyone feels this way; Lizard Music is one of the few Pinkwater books that have recently been republished as a stand-alone work (as opposed to his collected novel volumes). It may be that this was done largely because this is one of the books that helped bring Pinkwater into the children's literature, and is a book that many of us remember from our childhoods. Or it may have been done because it is a better book than I realize.

As a side note, Lizard Music was, in its early editions, a terrible victim of the Cover-Must-Look-Cool marketing philosophy, and was apparently done by an artist who had not read the book... at all. Victor was portrayed as a typical 80s pre-teen with a bad haircut, and the lizards as iguanas in leather jackets. This is a shame, because Pinkwater himself was to become an established, although admittedly not 'cool', illustrator in the years to come.