I don’t know about you, but as a desert dweller, when I hear “lizard garden” and Amsterdam in the same sentence, it seems a little… incongruous. So, when author Anne E. Phillips (who happens to be a dear friend of mine) wrote a children’s novel, The Lizard Garden, that takes place in The Netherlands and involves, among several things, this not-famous-enough-in-my-opinion Lizard Garden, well… I wanted to know more.
Anne’s book is told from the perspective of twelve-year-old Charlotte. One of the best things about this book is Anne’s characters. She writes with a crisp, clean authenticity that makes the story come alive in a fresh, inviting way. You immediately connect with Charlotte, Milo, and Alice and their family.
But what I love most about this book is how, as an American, I am immersed in Dutch culture in a way I can relate to. Rather than reading a guidebook to “living in Holland,” I’m living in Holland with another American family. It’s a learning experience that doesn’t feel like a lesson.
Anne draws you into another world, sets you on an adventure, teaches you things you didn’t know about Dutch culture, art, and travel, and all in a way that makes you feel like you’re experiencing them rather than sitting in a classroom.
It’s hard to write this review–not because I have any criticism that I want to downplay, but rather the opposite. I have so much I want to say about the book, but in doing so, I’ll spoil it. And as we all know, River Song would never approve of “Spoilers!”
So, I’ll just say this.
I loved it. It is a well-written, engaging story that, while written for the youth market, is actually ageless. Younger children will love to have the book read to them and adults will enjoy it because it is simply a good story. I’m dying to read her next art-inspired youth novel–rumor has it that it takes place in Italy!