Review: Lizard's Tale
The heady scent of tropical blooms and odorous perfume of food street vendors waft deliciously throughout this action-packed middle grade read by debut author, Weng Wai Chan. Set in the turbulent early 1940s in pre-war Singapore, Lizard's Tale is an exotic dim sum steamer full of mystery, dubious characters, spies and espionage that barely takes a breath.
Lizard is an all but orphaned boy eking out an existence in Singapore's Chinatown. Home is a windowless cubicle above a tailor's shop and survival means he has to resort to charging money for writing other people's letters and petty theft. It's an unsavoury childhood at best and one he is keen to abandon.
He yearns to return to his home by the sea at Changi, which he shared with his enigmatic Uncle Archie, who has been his guardian since his parents died but after Uncle Archie mysteriously disappears and fails to return home one day, Lizard is left alone and vulnerable. So when he is coerced into a job for the corrupt crime man, Boss Man Beng, Lizard accepts it. The risk is high but the reward even higher.
Lizard is spectacularly unprepared for the aftermath that befalls him immediately after he steals a small teak box from Singapore's most notable establishment, the Raffles Hotel. He is plunged into a tangle of intrigue, secrets, codes and spy work which continually takes unexpected twists and turns especially after his best friend, Lily, reveals her true occupation to him.
Bristling with edge-of-your-seat excitement, Lizard's Tale is a feast for lovers of adventure and fast-paced conspiracy. This is a story told with spirit and drive, easy to read, great fun to lap up, made all the more palatable by the alluring setting, colourful cast of characters and background history. It's a tale where the kids really and truly are the heroes and that is sure to tick any tween's box.
Title: Lizard’s Tale
Author: Weng Wai Chan
Publisher: Text Publishing, $16.99
Publication Date: July 2019
For ages: 9 – 14
Type: Middle Grade Novel
Buy the Book: Boomerang Books, Text Publishing