Lizard Music

This is like a film noir for 8-12-year-olds, if a film noir was crossed with old-school X-Files, and was also a musical. It was written in 1976 and you can tell, in the best of ways. Its main character, Victor, is a cool and laconic narrator—most of the time. He’s often baffled by the world and its inhabitants, though this is as true for the human adult one as much as the lizard people island where most of the lizard people are named Reynold.

When Victor’s parents go to Colorado for a summer vacation and his older sister Leslie takes off with a station wagon of hippies, he finds himself alone for two weeks. He’s fine with it, watching news shows and drinking frozen orange juice, until he starts seeing lizard people on late night TV, playing the most incredible music. Reality begins to get a bit screwy. The Chicken Man starts turning up everywhere, so called because he has a chicken under his hat called Claudia. (She’s a pretty swell gal.) Victor’s curiosity leads him on a mission to get to the bottom of it all, so he enlists The Chicken Man (who is a trained guide) to help him out.

Daniel Pinkwater’s writing is straight-faced and hilarious, operating under its own logic, a predecessor to writers like Lemony Snicket. Victor is an independent protagonist—even while considering whether he is losing his mind—and Pinkwater expects readers to be the same. Lizard Music is smart, funny and, kindly and unapologetically, strange.