Lizard from the Park is a whimsical New York-set picture book from author-illustrator Mark Pett. In classic picture book fashion, it takes an utterly absurd idea (finding a dinosaur egg in Central Park), and treats it with an almost complete seriousness that carries you along with the story. Charming and amusing in equal measure, it’s a total delight!
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Lizard From The Park is about a young boy called Leonard. One day, he finds an egg, in what is clearly Central Park, and takes it home with him. And it’s really no surprise (the cover is a bit of a giveaway) that the lizard that hatches is actually something rather more exciting…
Leonard names his new pet ‘Buster’, and at first the two of them have lots of fun. In a parent-pleasing nod to New York landmarks, the two of them visit museums and art galleries, and potter around the streets of the city together.
And while the story doesn’t say exactly what kind of lizard Buster is, there are some not-so-subtle clues in the illustrations! Sharp-eyed little readers might also spot another young man with a lizard pet, who crops up more than once in the background.
But, alas, the fun cannot last forever. Buster isn’t your garden variety bearded dragon or gecko. And as time goes on, he grows bigger, and bigger, and bigger.
Leonard tries his best with ridiculously ineffective disguises, but soon it is impossible to hide his enormous friend. For Buster’s own safety, Leonard stops taking him out and keeps Buster shut up in his bedroom.
Yet even a penthouse apartment (those are some pricey digs, Leonard!), isn’t big enough for Buster. So, eventually Leonard realises that he has to take his Dino friend back to where he found him. Back to Central Park.
Leonard uses an ingenious trick to get Buster out of the apartment and back to the park. Let’s just say, someone owes some royalties to Pixar 😉
By this point, Buster is so big and unmistakably a T-Rex, that my kids breathed a sigh of relief when Leonard takes him home. I suspect they were just as relieved for Leonard, who therefore avoids getting into trouble, as they were happy for Buster, who gets to return home to his real family.
Happily ever after.
Lizard From the Park ties up loose ends nicely too. After pages of near-misses, Leonard finally makes a (somewhat more appropriate) new friend. And he understands exactly what Leonard was going through!
I love the illustrations in this book. The soft watercolours and friendly rounded illustrations show a New York that is everywhere a child’s playground. Leonard is just as at home in front of Monet’s Water lilies at MoMa, as he is wandering through the Natural History Museum. Central Park itself holds a mysterious forest where it’s perfectly possible a herd of dinosaurs might roam.
This is a lovely book for little readers, whether they are dinosaur-obsessed like Leonard, or just in it for a fun story. The Lizard From the Park is a picture book that’s bound to become a family favourite!
Buy Lizard from the Park by Mark Pett
Lizard from the Park is available here from Amazon. It’s currently in hardback only.
By the same author and illustrator:
Mark Pett has written and illustrated a couple of beautiful ‘wordless’ books – The Boy and the Airplane and The Girl and the Bicycle, for example. But we especially love the humour in this one. It’s a hilarious demonstration of how little control an author-illustrator really has over his creations. And with some clever bits of paper engineering thrown in for good measure.
By Mark Pett
Picture Books with Diverse Characters
Have you seen my full list of the best 23 picture books with diverse characters? Just like Lizard from the Park, all of these picture books feature black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) boys as main characters. Something that’s as rare as proverbial hen’s teeth in children’s books, and a problem I’ve written about here.
Check out the list to find out more about our favourites, and take a peek inside. If you like the look of this book, I’m sure you’ll find some others to love there too!
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