Wizard vs. Lizard is the first book in the Fred, Wizard in Training series, and it’s an enjoyable romp for 8- to 10-year-olds. In a family of talented wizards, Fred is an underdog in every way – his magic is so tragically lame, that the best he can do with it is wash dishes and tame worms. Poor Fred is desperate to prove his worth. That’s a situation that many kids can relate to.
The style of the first half of the book reminds me of Lemony Snicket. The adult narrator points out funny absurdities, makes comments directly to the reader, and builds up our empathy for Fred. The second half of the book picks up the pace, and the Snickety-ness fades as Fred hops on the bus to a rather exciting and mildly perilous adventure.
The illustrations are charming and match the overall tone of the book very well. The striped cover is eye catching, and the illustrator has paid great attention to the smallest details.
The author is a touch heavy-handed with some details, particular when establishing the relationship between Fred and his family, and the joke about ‘an extraordinarily rotund wizard’ was unnecessary. On the whole, though, the writing is amusing and clever in a way that kids will enjoy. I really liked that Fred’s bestie, Marvin, stands by him throughout. By the end of the book, Fred understands that he is unique and can be proud of what he has to offer the world.