Gr 3-5-- An idyllic chapter in fence lizard Toohy's life ends abruptly when a grass fire kills his gentle best friend, a dove named Pearl, and forces him to flee his comfortable underground home. He takes refuge with kindhearted Wood, a turtle who writes poetry and runs a bait shop for local bug anglers. Feeling the ``big awful'' over his loss, Toohy sets out to find a new fence, but returns, after some adventures, to his wise new friend. An air of metaphor hovers about this story--in one chapter Toohy undertakes what seems to be a very long journey along the edge of a pond, repeatedly passing Wood's sign: ``THIS IS A ROUND POND''--but it never takes off. The characters and the writing have a serene, Pooh-like simplicity, and the layered humor will appeal to a range of sensibilities. Toohy's grief eases at the end in a believable way. A thoughtful story about innocence, compassion, and friendship.--John Peters, New York Public Library
There's more than meets the eye in this slender novel, which begins with an ending. When Pearl (a musical dove) is killed during a summer brushfire, her best friend Toohy (a gourmet lizard) goes in search of a new field to call home. When he mistakes the wooden roof of a bait shop for a fence, Toohy is taken in by owner Wood (a poetic turtle). Under Wood's patient guidance, Toohy learns to accept Pearl's death by keeping his promise to learn to read and by saving the old turtle's life during a storm. While Monsell's evocative description of a rural world inhabited by affectionate and elegant animals is reminiscent of "The Wind in the Willows", her sensitive depiction of disrupted domesticity and enormous loss places her gentle story firmly in the 1990s.