From the Publisher
"A fun adventure that will capture the imagination of beginning chapter-book readers." School Library Journal
"The story moves along quickly, enlivened by dramatic situations, dry wit, and dynamic full-page illustrations. An enjoyable romp." Booklist, ALA
"Carter's black-and-white pencil and wash illustrations...offer humorous caricatures of the anthropomorphized animals." Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"His engaging adventures make Holbrook a likable, courageous hero." Horn Book Guide
Ingram Library Services
Clever, exciting, and funny, this title will have high appeal for readers grades 2-5.
[Becker’s] book poses a particularly lofty query (i.e. What is art?) within a context that many kids will understand...the arc of the story occurs in just the right way to get kids interested in Holbrook’s predicament(s)...I was impressed that she was able to present ways in which the real art world works, but in a kid-friendly concept...A read that anyone, artist or otherwise, could enjoy.
Children's Literature - Sylvia Firth
Currently, fantasy is enjoying a surge of popularity with young readers. This title is better than many in the genre. The main character is a desert lizard called Holbrook who constantly paints his surroundings and longs to be recognized as a famous and successful artist. With some help from his friend Irving, Holbrook leaves Rattler's Bend with his most precious possession, a painting he calls "Starry Sky." He is determined to enter it into a contest being held in Golden City. Here he encounters a sleek, sly, famed art patron named Count Rainier Rumolde. At first, Holbrook is enchanted as he meets many famed artists including tenor Enrico Escargot and ballerina Margot Frogtayne. Things soon prove too good to be true, and Holbrook is caught in a horrible situation where many artists are forced into slavishly painting the same pictures over and over again. All of the animals are genuinely portrayed in delightful black and white illustrations that greatly add to the appeal of the story. Those needing fantasy for upper elementary age readers should consider this volume for purchase.
School Library Journal
Gr 2-4-Holbrook the lizard is a misunderstood artist. His happiness depends on his ability to hold a fine paintbrush in hand, to marvel over the vast array of paints, and to let his imagination soar. But the folks in the desert town of Rattler's Bend think his paintings are just "squiggles," and that it's time to get a real job. Then an opportunity arises that will really measure his worth as an artist. Leaving the comfort of home, he embarks into the unknown where he enters a painting competition in Golden City. The place is full of renowned animals, and the best of the best have come to view the work of the most talented artists. When he arrives, Holbrook is struck by the strangeness of city culture and the creatures inhabiting this unknown world. When he shows his painting Starry Sky, he encounters a host of unsavory creatures and must rely on newfound friendships and smarts just to stay alive. This delightful marriage of takeoffs of famous personalities (Margot Frogtayne, Enrico Escargot) and storytelling techniques yields an amusing cast of rich characters. This is a fun adventure that will capture the imagination of beginning chapter-book readers.-Robyn Gioia, Bolles School, Ponte Vedra, FL Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
An earnest message is weighed down by a predictable plot and flat characterization. Holbrook, a lizard with a passion for painting, leaves his desert home to enter an art contest. The trip to Golden City opens his eyes to a new world. But what seems like a stroke of luck leads to disaster. Befriended by Count Rumolde, a weasel with artistic ambitions, Holbrook finds himself confined and forced to create paintings for the tourist trade. He manages to free himself and comes up with a plan to rescue his fellow prisoners. Betrayed again, Holbrook plays on the creative desires of their intended executioner to save the day. Several characters are based on famous artists, including ballerina Margot Frogtayne and opera singer Enrico Escargot. The author's note offers brief information about these and other inspirations, but it's unlikely that they will have much resonance for children. The message that creativity should be valued and nourished is a worthy one, but given the utter lack of child appeal, it's unlikely many readers will get that message here. (Fiction. 8-10)
Read an Excerpt
Holbrook stood in the corner of the huge living room clutching a glass of sparkling cream soda. He’d never drunk cream soda, and it had a nice rich tingle to it. He sipped at it, being careful not to spill. The room was full of glamorous animals who mostly ignored him. A lady bulldog dripping with fat pearls approached Holbrook. “I am the Duchess of Woof,” she announced. “Are you somebody?” Holbrook had to shake his head no.
She moved on.
Holbrook’s Desert Sunset had replaced the portrait of Count Rumolde’s mother on the wall near the elevator. He had been rather surprised to see that it was the only piece of art in the room, since the count had told him he collected art. But even so, no one noticed it.
“There’s Corvus Cawfield,” he heard someone say.
Holbrook craned his neck. He saw a large black crow moved talking with a serious-looking mole. The crow had a lively sparkle to his eyes. How Holbrook wished he had the courage to go up and talk to him.
A troupe of snails arrived. They proved to be a rowdy bunch, drinking a great deal of champagne and breaking into song at the least excuse. Grayler, the butler, moved smoothly through the crowd offering small sandwiches and delicate bits of cheese.
Then Holbrook forgot about everything because, at that moment, the elevator doors opened and out stepped the prettiest creature he had ever seen. She was a slender frog with long, graceful legs. Her eyes, large and dark, were tender, yet there was something fierce and proud in them, too.
Other creatures turned to stare. A swan near Holbrook reared back her neck and hissed softly, “Margot Frogtayne!” “The famous ballerina?” asked someone.
“The best in the world,” barked the duchess.
“Well, that depends,” replied a snippy-looking Chihuahua. “Perhaps the ballerina Miss Swanson here would not agree.” The swan glared at the duchess. Clearly, she did not.
“The exhibition will determine the best,” said the Chihuahua.
But the duchess wasn’t listening. Like others in the crowd, she seemed to have eyes only for the frog and her companion, a large smiling snail with a tiny silk cravat around his neck.
Margot Frogtayne moved with grace into the foyer. She paused to look at Holbrook’s painting.
Holbrook’s throat pounded. How he wished it was Starry Sky that was hanging there! Something special and wonderful—something as special as she was.
The frog smiled and turned to the snail. “C’est tres jolie, n’est pas, Enrico?” The snail nodded. He had a warm, pleasant face. When he spoke, his voice was deep and flowery. “Molto bello,” he said.
“What’d he say?” Holbrook eagerly asked the duchess. “What’d she say?” “They said the painting is pretty, more or less,” she growled.
They thought his painting was pretty! And now other animals were noticing it, too. Count Rumolde rushed up to them, his paws held out. “Mademoiselle Margot, Signor Escargot! Welcome! I am honored. I see you are admiring my newest acquisition. Let me introduce you to the artist.” He waved a paw for Holbrook to join them.
All the animals now turned to stare at Holbrook.
Holbrook stood for a moment. The frog smiled at him. He stumbled forward.
“He’s nobody,” he heard the duchess say in answer to a question. She sounded rather angry.
“Holbrook, this is Mademoiselle Margot Frogtayne. The world’s greatest prima ballerina.” “Enchantée,” the frog said modestly, turning her lovely eyes downward. She curved one pretty leg just a bit.
“I refuse to stay here and be insulted!” the swan trumpeted and flapped into the elevator.
Count Rumolde paid no attention. “And this, of course, is Enrico Escargot.” Holbrook smiled anxiously at the snail; everyone else seemed to know who he was.
Enrico laughed. “You have not heard of the great Enrico Escargot?” He threw back his head, and in a voice surprisingly powerful for such a small creature (large as he was for a snail) he sang, “Figaro! Figaro, Figaro, Figaro.” When Holbrook still looked confused, the duchess barked, “Everyone knows Enrico, the world’s greatest operatic tenor!” Enrico Escargot smiled at Holbrook, “It is of no consequence, my friend. The world knows many things that are not important.” A large lobster crowded closer. He glared at Holbrook over tiny steel spectacles. “He doesn’t know of Mademoiselle Frogtayne or Signor Escargot. Really, my friend, where have you been? Living under a rock?” Holbrook blushed. Actually, his burrow was under a rock.
Enrico frowned and started to say something, but a number of animals, along with the lobster, crowded forward and pushed Holbrook aside. The Duchess of Woof nearly seized him with her jaws, so eager was she to get past him. Holbrook was forced back into his corner. He took a big gulp of his cream soda, buut it was warm and had lost its bubbles.
© 2006 by Bonny Becker. Reprinted by permission of Clarion Books / Houghton Mifflin Company