Written and illustrated by Steve Antony
Scholastic Press, 2015
The green lizards and the red rectangles were at war.
The plot in a nutshell: Two enemies find a way to live together.
The lizards try to win, but the rectangles are smart. The rectangles try to win, but the lizards are strong. One lizard asks why they’re even fighting and a rectangle squashes him, leading to a full scale battle, which goes on until they can’t fight anymore. Finally they call a truce and when they talk it over, they discover a way that they can all live together in harmony.
Author/illustrator Steve Antony shares the story of this book’s inspiration on his website. It all started when he saw a piece of artwork that was composed entirely of rectangles and he couldn’t get it out of his head. He imagined the lizards as a visual counterpoint to the rectangles and the ensuing thoughts led to the creation of this book, which introduces some pretty solemn concepts in a quirky way that doesn’t overplay or undermine the seriousness of the subject. It’s a fine line to walk for a picture book that’s essentially about war and Mr. Antony walks it perfectly.
The artwork here is truly nothing but those green lizards and red rectangles, yet there are a lot of things to notice. Red and green are complementary colors and even represent the colors of Christmas, one of our most joyous holidays, so it feels like a subliminal message underscoring the fact that these two being in opposition is completely wrong. Their shapes, however, are definitely in contrast, with the sharp straight similar lines and corners of the rectangles and the wavy, curvy variety of the lizards. The resolution includes them setting up a living space that allows them to all live together in a way that will require some give and take from both sides, which is a good conclusion. And the book’s endpapers show an injured lizard (hopefully the one that got squashed earlier) kissing a rectangle, showing that some of them have even moved past friendship and into a budding romance. It’s cute and unusual, but the lessons here are smartly conveyed.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that even the bitterest of enemies can find a way to peaceful coexistence if they are both willing to try.