Mix of green lizards standing, crawling and fighting some red rectangles

Green Lizards vs Red Rectangles Review

Written by Tanya Alevropoulos

I came across Green Lizards vs Red Rectangles due to my obsession with the Kate Greenaway award. It has been nominated for the 2017 award, due to be announced in June 2017. I take great pleasure in reading all the nominated titles. Then trying to guess which will be selected for the longlist, the shortlist, and finally receive the award. I found it a few weeks ago in Foyles book shop in Waterloo and devoured it.

The story starts by stating that the green lizards and red rectangles were at war.  The red rectangles were smart but the green lizards were strong and thus neither could defeat the other. The fighting continued until they gathered for a truce. Could they find a way to make peace?  I don’t want to spoil it for you, so you’ll just have to read it!

Illustrated page of a book filled with green lizards looking at the top right hand corner

1 It has been nominated for the prestigious Kate Greenaway medal

If a book is nominated for a medal, I always think it’s worth taking a look. It is telling me that other people rate it as well.  Previous winners include personal favourites such as Maurice Sendak’s Where The Wild Things Are and Anthony Browne’s Gorilla. Which would put this book into very good company indeed!

A red rectangle covers over half the page squishing the green lizards, which don't look very happy

2 The endpapers set the scene and !!!spoiler alert!!! illustrates the ending…

For those not in the know, the endpapers of a book are basically the first and last pages of the book after the front and back covers. These days many picture books have endpapers worthy of study; they relate to some aspect of the story (often in an amusing fashion).

For Green Lizards and Red Rectangles the front endpaper (see photo) shows a heaving mass of lizards, and they don’t look happy! Why might that be? You can talk about this with your child. The back endpaper, for those who like to read the last page of a book in advance (personally I never do), gives you your ending.

Mix of green lizards standing, crawling and fighting some red rectangles

3 It is a very clever story of war and peace

The pictures and printed text combine to demonstrate the absurdity of war and conflict in a way that small children can understand.

A mixture of different sized red rectangles on top of one another

4 The ending is inspired

I was hugely delighted with the ending. It really is very, very clever!

Book illustration with a crowd of green lizards, some standing on each others heads, to get a view of something happening of the paper on the right hand side

5 It should be a compulsory PSHE text

The Guardian review says it all “This book offers an easy, safe means to talk about the idea of war”. PSHE should, in my opinion, be a compulsory subject, but the New Curriculum does not agree. So now many schools are now only paying it lip service. By reading this book with your child you are giving them vital skills to consider the repercussions of conflict and the crucial ability to find resolution.

Page of a book saying the Green Lizards and the Red Rectangles were at war

Steve Antony’s genius is to have created illustrated characters as diametrically opposite as you can get.  Since the lizards are living, green, curvy and squishy, whereas the rectangles are inanimate, red, angular and hard. The history of mankind demonstrates that difference in race, creed or opinions, which has resulted in, and still results in, conflicts. Ones in which millions of lives have been lost.

This book could help your child consider these horrible but real consequences in the safety of a warm, comfortable familiar room. And just maybe, maybe, could make a difference to their life and to the lives of others. I think that’s worth £6.99, and 15 minutes of your time, don’t you?

Additional Learning Opportunities

Rather than listing them all, quite simply this book provides an excellent vehicle to talk about war. As an extra, you could ask your child to think of a different animal and alliterative shape who could be at war and let them create their own drawings, for example Grey Elephants vs Turquoise Triangles, and see how they manage to find peace.