Lizzie, age eleven, does not let her wheelchair get in the way of her curiosity. After she is partially paralyzed in a diving accident, Lizzie and her single mom are starting life over in a small town in Florida, where Lizzie’s thirst for knowledge and adventure makes her some unlikely friends and gets her into some sticky situations. Resilient and precocious, Lizzie has a passion for learning new words (especially those with Latin roots) and a propensity for finding trouble, which is how she ends up stumbling upon criminal activities involving seedy characters, beautiful golden monkeys, and murder.
Eleven-year-old Lizzie is as candid about the diving accident that left her paralyzed as she is about the fact that "My father was a sperm from a sperm bank in California that specializes in sperm from very intelligent men." Living with her progressive mother in Florida, Lizzie doesn't spend much time lamenting the loss of her mobility. Instead, she eagerly soaks up new knowledge, carefully observes the adults that orbit her world, and frequents an exotic petting zoo run by a well-meaning but uneducated man all of which she records in her "autobiography." When Lizzy learns that Henry's petting zoo may be illegally importing endangered animals, she faces a moral quandary. Kumin, a former U.S. Poet Laureate who died in early February, provides Lizzie with a voice that is endearing, if at times overly precocious. Lizzie's swift embroilment in a murder case associated with the petting zoo also strains believability. Nevertheless, that Lizzie's disability isn't the central focus of her narrative is refreshing, in a charming story about perspective, integrity, and developing one's own system of ethics. Art not seen by PW. Ages 9 12.