Lizard Love

Lizard Love

Wendy Townsend

A girl grows into a woman, kicking and screaming every step of the way.

Grace’s true home is her grandparents’ farm where she revels in the outdoors and its reptilian wildlife, so when she and her mother move to New York City, the eighth grader refuses to accept her new surroundings. Her one solace is assisting in the reptile shop Fang & Claw with kindred spirit Walter, the owner’s son, who gives Grace a prized iguana. Her friend Cathy introduces Nick, another reptile fan, but Grace often brusquely resists their company, preferring her reptiles. Her feelings of disconnectedness multiply when she visit her grandparents and discovers them enjoying an indoor lifestyle after selling much of their land to developers. Grace begins to mature but detests her changing body, causing her to withdraw further and hurt others, especially Walter. Grace ponders her actions and considers who she wishes to become, and begins taking baby steps toward a more fulfilling future.


  • Ages: 14 - 17
  • Grades: 9 - 12
  • Pages: 168
  • E-book: $7.95

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Recent Reviews

7 In her debut novel, Townsend displays a remarkable narrative gift. ... [T]his story will still find an enthusiastic audience among young people walking the daily tightrope between fitting in and growing up.


Townsend draws gorgeous portraits of scaly creatures, making their pupils, scents, behavior and coloring keenly familiar. Readers come to share Grace's appreciation for all things slithering...

—Kirkus Reviews

This is a very special, unique book...I'm bowled over by the descriptions of animals - so beautiful and precise and yet available to any reader, not esoteric.. any kid who reads this book will have her eyes opened to nature in a brand new way.

—Norma Fox Mazer

Told from Grace’s viewpoint using a series of vignettes, the novel’s highlight is its exquisite, intricate descriptions of various reptiles. These pictorials, however, sacrifice character development; Grace’s father is unmentioned in the same breath with her mother, and other relatives barely appear. Discussing Grace’s family and revealing other background information would provide a broader context for understanding her extreme motions and choices. Grace’s obstinacy regarding her move, shunning potential friends for pet reptiles, revulsion of her maturing body, and accompanying self-loathing seem atypical and disturbing. Females unenthralled by reptiles may have little in common with Grace, but those enduring particularly challenging adolescences should appreciate her struggles. –Lisa A. Hazlett.

—Voice of Youth Advocates

Nicely characterized, showing keen awareness of the young teen experience, and written to reveal the reptilian world in colorful detail, the story is an obvious fit for animal lovers... All readers will come to understand Grace’s fancy for these creatures even if they don’t share her lizard love. A worthwhile choice for young folks shedding the skin of childhood.

—School Library Journal

The transition from childhood to adolescence is never easy. Grace enjoyed her childhood in Mooresville where she loved nature and grew up with frogs, lizards, bugs, and snakes. Now that her mother has moved their two-person family to Manhattan, things are different. Grace is undergoing physical changes as well. At school the boys call her Chester, and on the subway men stare at her. However, with the move she also acquired a new friend who is understanding to a fault, sometimes a little too supportive and understanding considering the amount of negative feedback Grace provides. Grace gets a job at the Fang & Claw, a job that allows her to convene more fully with the background she is used to. It does not hurt that the store owner has a son who is Graces age and shares her interests. She decides to make an investment in her life in Manhattan, and the changes benefit her greatly. Overall, the book can be slow moving at times. It is sometimes difficult for the reader to understand Grace's surly perspective and to understand why these friends are persevering when Graces attitude leaves a lot to be desired. Recommended.

—Library Media Connection

Honors for Lizard Love

  • Best Children's Books of the Year, Bank Street College of Education