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Blue Iguana Hardcover – March 15, 2014
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Imagine feeling the pain of every ant inadvertently crushed by a shoe, or each dissection specimen in a high-school biology lab. Clarice’s vegan sensibilities to living creatures are in overdrive: her breath shortens, her stomach turns, and she is unable even to drive the family truck for fear of hitting a frog on the road. Her parents favorably respond to her counselor’s recommendation for Clarice to have field experience as a naturalist-in-training, and she heads to the Blue Iguana Recovery Program (BIRP) on Grand Cayman Island for a summer internship. The plotline follows a true tragic event at BIRP, with fictionalized human personalities. However, it is the iguana characterizations, based on the real-life iguanas whose colors change with their moods, that are most lovingly portrayed. As Clarice serves as a field guide to learn about these noble minidinosaurs, she tries to reconcile her convictions and her future goals as a research biologist. Readers might find this a good companion story to many of Nic Bishop’s notable photo-essays of the natural world. --Gail Bush
Blue Iguana was on the short list for The Nature Generation's Green Earth Award.
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"I finished Blue Iguana a few minutes ago and I am already wishing there was a sequel! I am almost 13 years old and this novel was perfect for me. I started reading it a few days ago and just couldn't stop! I am a nature fan myself but sadly not a vegan (though I am vegetarian). Blue Iguana has inspired me to try volunteering in some animal related place, just like Clarice did with BIRP. Really enjoyed it!!!"
I also thoroughly enjoyed Blue Iguana. Wendy Townsend's writing style is understated yet evocative, and highly readable. She clearly remembers well what it feels like to be a teen. I admire how she wove details of blue iguana ecology, behaviour, threats, and conservation into the narrative, in a way that felt unforced, enhancing the plot rather than preaching to, or patronising, the reader. Clarice is an intense, passionate young woman who feels animal pain as if it's her own, something both my daughter and myself empathise with. In this coming-of-age story, Clarice learns to manage her feelings and fears and in the process discovers her niche in the world. After finishing Blue Iguana, my daughter came to me with an expression of wonder on her face, wringing her hands with excitement, and asked me if I thought she might volunteer too, before going to university. When a novel opens doors for its readers, offers them a different perspective of life, you know it's done its job well. I wholeheartedly recommend Blue Iguana to any animal- or nature-loving teen (or adult). At the very least, you'll never think of lizards the same way again.
At the end of her junior year, Clarice, has no idea what she wants to do. Her grades are below par and college doesn’t seem to be in the cards for her. Sensitive by nature, Clarice becomes physically ill in biology when her favorite teacher is about to dissect a live frog. She runs out of the class and ends up in the Guidance office. The Counselor suggests that Clarice become a volunteer for wildlife conservation. Clarice checks on-line and discovers BIRP (Blue Iguana Recovery Program) on Grand Cayman Island. After talking with her parents and sorting out her feelings about leaving her little brother for the summer, she is on her way to work with field biologists and other volunteers on the island. The tenderhearted girl soon bonds with a nearly extinct species of lizard and is devastated by an attack that leaves many of the iguanas dead. It is Clarice’s sensitivity, intuitiveness, and love of the lizards that bring home to the reader a powerful realization that all life should be treated with honor and respect. This book shows the exquisite world of a species different from our own and through Clarice, we come to deeply care about them. Clarice herself comes to terms with some of the tougher things she’s been battling--learning to drive, an understanding if not acceptance that accidents resulting in animals being killed in the road are often unavoidable, and in setting goals for a future where she knows she can make a difference.
Clarice’s highly attuned perceptions and sensitivity to nature will raise the awareness of readers and reconnect them to the natural world. In a time when all of life is at risk on our planet, Townsend’s book is a firm reminder that we are the caretakers and it is our responsibility to preserve and protect. This book should be required reading.