- Age Range: 7 - 10 years
- Grade Level: 2 - 5
- Hardcover: 160 pages
- Publisher: Clarion Books; 1 edition (November 13, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0618714588
- ISBN-13: 978-0618714582
- Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.6 x 0.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #985,457 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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HOLBROOK: A Lizard's Tale Hardcover – November 13, 2006
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From School Library Journal
Grade 2-4–Holbrook the lizard is a misunderstood artist. His happiness depends on his ability to hold a fine paintbrush in hand, to marvel over the vast array of paints, and to let his imagination soar. But the folks in the desert town of Rattler's Bend think his paintings are just squiggles, and that it's time to get a real job. Then an opportunity arises that will really measure his worth as an artist. Leaving the comfort of home, he embarks into the unknown where he enters a painting competition in Golden City. The place is full of renowned animals, and the best of the best have come to view the work of the most talented artists. When he arrives, Holbrook is struck by the strangeness of city culture and the creatures inhabiting this unknown world. When he shows his painting Starry Sky, he encounters a host of unsavory creatures and must rely on newfound friendships and smarts just to stay alive. This delightful marriage of takeoffs of famous personalities (Margot Frogtayne, Enrico Escargot) and storytelling techniques yields an amusing cast of rich characters. This is a fun adventure that will capture the imagination of beginning chapter-book readers.–Robyn Gioia, Bolles School, Ponte Vedra, FL
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Holbrook, a young lizard who longs to prove to the other inhabitants of Rattler's Bend that he's a real artist, sets out for the big city with his best painting under his arm. Though befriended by luminaries such as ballerina Margot Frogtayne and tenor Enrico Escargot, he falls under the sway of a suave crook named Count Rumolde. With quick wits and a little help, Holbrook frees fellow painters' animals imprisoned by the count and stops a famous cook from turning the animal artistes into dinner for the carnivorous count. There are aspects of this fantasy that children will understand right away, such as Holbrook's longing for respect in his community, and others that they probably just won't get. To help with the latter, an appended note offers short introductions to artists referenced in the text, such as Enrico Caruso, Margot Fonteyn, T.S. Eliot, and Andy Warhol. The story moves along quickly, enlivened by dramatic situations, dry wit, and dynamic full-page illustrations. An enjoyable romp. Carolyn Phelan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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It isn't that Holbrook feels unappreciated, exactly. He knows that his neighbors in Rattler's Bend don't understand his need to paint "squiggles" (as they call them) rather than realistic art. It's just that he feels so utterly alone. Nobody appreciates the burning drive Holbrook has to create original paintings that make him feel a certain way. So when he hears that there's going to be an artistic exhibition in the metropolitan Golden City, Holbrook's out the door and on the Golden City's streets quick as a wink. Trouble is, the city's a vast and hustling place and Holbrook's not certain of his place in it. So when art patron Count Rumolde brings the lizard into his home, Holbrook thinks he's hit quite a spate of good luck. Unfortunately, things are not always what they seem in the city. Now our hero has found the dark side of the artistic temperament and unless he and some newfound friends use their heads, they're going to find their careers (and possibly their lives) cut short in a terrifying end.
Yes, it's talking animals wearing clothes, but less of the fuzzy woodland creature variety and more along the lines of the Hermux Tantamoq book, "Times Stops For No Mouse", by Michael Hoeye. Becker isn't cutesy here. Her world has been well-thought out and the arc of the story occurs in just the right way to get kids interested in Holbrook's predicament(s). I have a slight dislike of any book that takes the name of real life stars and gives them anthropomorphized names. Turning Margot Fonteyn into Margot Frogtayne, for example. Becker makes up for it, though, by including an Author's Note that lists the real artists and what their accomplishments really were. The accompanying line drawings by illustrator Abby Carter bear a mild resemblance to a slightly more expressive E.H. Shepard.
There have been plenty of children's books published that question the meaning behind "art" but usually those books zero in on a single style. You can read books about painters or photographers or writers, and never really come to grips with the fact that the inspiration of these variegated geniuses all stem from the same starting point. Art isn't just painting, and Becker makes this clear by surrounding Holbrook with animals of various talents and persuasions. I liked that. I also liked that the book made it fairly clear to kids why something like Vincent van Gogh's Starry Night is worth looking at, even if it doesn't look exactly like the night sky as we know it. Becker is looking at the value of art, even when it doesn't construe to our preconceptions. She's able to present ways in which the real art world works, but in a kid-friendly concept and can reel off a line like, "Art is about truth, but it doesn't have to be real", without ever becoming confusing. At one point Holbrook is convinced to create a dull painting for a rich patron because, "perhaps, that's the way it worked in the city. Small favors to the right creatures."
Becker skews dark near the end of her novel, but though there are plenty of threats of violence, we never actually see a drop of blood fall. And there are a couple loose ends in the novel, of course. We never find out what becomes of the gastronomically-inclined (and near homicidal) ape. Still, on the whole the book is a pleasure of a read. It is small. It is quiet. It does not draw attention to itself with dragons and flashy foil covers. It's just a perfectly nice book about a perfectly nice lizard in perfectly nice packaging. A read that anyone, artist or otherwise, could enjoy.