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Iggy The Iguana

February 19, 2010

Iggy the Iguana by Melissa M. Williams
published by LongTale Publishing Inc. August 1, 2008

I have always felt that 4th grade is an especially tricky time for schoolkids. The students are still children, and their hormones haven’t quite kicked in yet. Yet they are becoming more sophisticated in many ways, and they’re becoming more critical of their peers. Parents of kids who are noticeably different — children with disabilities, for example — have said this is the stage where other students become aware of their differences and begin to tease and reject them.

Children are still innocent in many ways, trading Pokemon cards and singing bastardized versions of the “Barney” song. Yet their lives are complicated by the dramas of cliques, fights and crushes. I am not suggesting that these things don’t surface earlier. When my oldest was in public school, cliques and peer rejection were rearing their ugly heads in Kindergarten. But many parents and teachers have noticed that it’s around fourth grade that these patterns solidify and become a prominent feature of kids’ lives — behaviors and challenges that will reach a fever pitch in middle school.

The Iggy the Iguana books, inspired by the author’s love of a childhood pet, use appealing anthropomorphic animals — lizards, toads, cats, and others — who go through their school year together and face many of the things children experience in fourth grade. Iggy is going to a mainstream school for the first time, after years of attending a lizard-only private school. He is frightened, but he quickly adopts a few new friends.

Different animal species are acutely aware of their differences as well as the things they have in common. Melissa highlights the diversity among the students by pointing out some unique animal adaptations that each species has — straddling the line between anthropomorphism and realistic facts about nature.

Readers see Iggy learn how to adapt to the changes in his life and realize change can be pretty good, while negotiating daily challenges, like bullying and his first crush. The novel helps coach kids in perspective taking, by helping them see the reasons kids behave the way they do. When you get a peek at what a child faces in his private life, you begin to understand him better.

I think these books are a good choice for children in all elementary grades (K-5), depending on their experiences and interest level. I have been reading Iggy the Iguana to my six year old, Trisha. While bullies and crushes are not yet on her radar, she is enjoying the book and often giggles at the characters’ antics, especially Iggy’s feisty little sister, Molly. These books can also be a good tool for teachers and guidance counselors, especially if kids are willing to freely discuss the ideas about friendship, differences, and perspective taking that arise in these stories, maybe even role-playing some scenarios.

These books were provided to me by the author, along with an Iggy doll and trading cards, for this book promotion. Thank you, Melissa!

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To learn more about Iggy and Melissa Williams – visit www.iggytheiguana.com. Win the Iggy the Iguana Give Away! Including the Newly Released Items in Iggy Collection, Snap Shell the Turtle (Plush Doll), Iggy Collector’s Baseball Cards, and The Read3Zero T-Shirt … supporting the fight against illiteracy 30 minutes at a time. Be our most active visitor during the tour for a chance to win this Iggy Collection — the tour schedule is posted at http://virtualblogtour.blogspot.com/2010/01/iggy-iguana-and-melissa-m-williams-tour.html to make it easy for you to visit and comment.

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