A review by Nalini Haynes
Josh and friends are back for the last term of grade 6 while deciding on high schools for next year. Mum puts the family on a “healthy” diet that sounds dreadful. (It IS possible to do a healthy diet that is actually edible, you know!) And some rangers visit, creating a class full of lizards.
Primary school chaos
In her first novel in this series, Hart says School Rules Are Optional. And the toilet block gets blocked, the school camp is a disaster, with chaos following Josh everywhere.
This time, the focus of the story is relationships while the action has significant subtext. While I enjoyed this book, and I imagine a lot of kids enjoying it too, I remember my bookish journey.
I took things literally and did not understand subtext. If your child is like me, A Class Full of Lizards is an excellent opportunity to read together and discuss the story to unpack the subtext in this novel. Added bonus: A Class Full of Lizards makes an excellent novel for primary school literacy studies with in-built coat hangers for a wide range of class activities and linked assignments under other subject umbrellas like social studies.
One of the many strengths of this novel is its representation of diverse groups. The class is diverse with no one suffering discrimination. One of the class activities is an assignment about neighbors, which reveals significant neighborhood diversity.
And then there’s disability. Rey, the new girl, takes a lot of time off school. Gradually we learn why. She has kidney problems so needs dialysis and makeup lessons for missing school. We don’t learn much more than this but, again, Rey doesn’t suffer discrimination. Teachers give her extra help and kids are all “shrug, it is what it is”.
My experience as being the disabled kid was pretty awful but, when my son was in prep, there were two kids using wheelchairs in the class. This early exposure to disability – and two kids with very different types of disability – created a classroom full of kids who just accepted wheelchairs. And one of the kids, Matthew, was very popular as the class clown, so there was that.
Inclusion in real life and inclusion is stories like this is crucial for changing attitudes towards minority groups.
A Class Full Of Lizards is a “slice of life” realistic story for primary school kids. Story threads include relational conflict and resolution; assignments and teamwork-related disasters; getting to know people; and acceptance.
If a reader tends to absorb only surface level, explicitly-stated content, then A Class Full of Lizards is an excellent teaching opportunity via group reading and discussion. Alternatively, re-reading this novel will help the young reader pick up threads missed the first time. This novel also provides coat hangers for various potential primary school classroom activities under several subject umbrellas.
I highly recommend this novel. 5 stars.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Imprint: A & U Children (Allen & Unwin)
Format: Paperback, 208 pages
Age: 8 – 12
Category: Children’s, relationships, social issues