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Saturday, July 2, 2011

"Lizard People" by Charlie Price: Reptilian Time Travelers Cure Mental Illness?!

Ben Mander's junior year is derailed when his mentally ill mother erupts in the school office. "You meet the nicest people in the lobby of a psychiatric hospital," says Ben about his mysterious new friend, Marco, who also has a mentally ill mother. Marco tells a story that turns Ben's idea of reality upside down. Soon Marco's tale begins to uncomfortable mirror Ben's own life. Is Ben losing his grip? Or is he experiencing an unforeseen boundary between time and space?

AuthorCharlie Price
“I was raised in Colorado and Montana, and I lived in Italy, New York City, Oakland, and Mexico before settling in Northern California. After I graduated from Stanford in the early 1960’s, I had a dual career in education and mental health. Working in a variety of schools and hospitals, I grew to deeply admire the courage of those who lived and worked with mental illness on a daily basis. I admired the young people I came to know—their triumphs, as well as the valiant way they dealt with hardships and failures.

“I am married to a lovely woman who has surpassed my dreams for the past thirty years. Moreover, I hereby attest and confirm that my daughter, Jessica Rose, is always right. Unfortunately, as she will be the first to tell you, I am not of sound mind.”     

                                                                                              Charlie Price
Charlie Price, in addition to writing and working with therapeutic groups, is a trainer, an executive coach, and a consultant who conducts business workshops and troubleshoots for private and public agencies. He is an avid reader, a pretty fair free-throw shooter, and a hopelessly addicted fly fisherman.

He has had a 30-something year career in education and therapeutic recreation. He has been a program director and clinical supervisor in psychiatric hospitals, a teacher and academic dean in many private school settings from Head Start to graduate seminars. He began in 1968 by working with high school dropouts in Bedford Stuyvesant. Now he writes and consults with private and public agencies in the areas of leadership and morale.

My Review:

Although Charlie Price is a very distinguished and honored author in juvenile/Young adult fiction, and has been since the early 2000's, he has sadly escaped my notice. I feel ignorant for that misstep in my literary education.

His book "Dead Connection" won An ALA Best Book for Young Adults, A Booklist Top Ten Mystery for Youth, A Book Sense Children's Pick, and a Publishers Weekly "Flying Starts" Selection mention.
I can hardly wait for my ordered book to get to me...drat the long holiday for that!

Publisher's Weekly calls Price's books:  "Superb. Compulsively readable." Others rave:  "Readers will like the edginess and be intrigued by the extrasensory elements."

Let me tell you how I reacted to "Lizard People." It was an immediate hit with me. I read the first 4 paragraphs and literally didn't stop reading until I finished the book some 4 hours later. It was fun, so interesting, a new concept, piercing, and had a twist that left me wondering until the very end whether I was experiencing psychosis or not. Fabulous insight into the mind of the mentally ill! I was taken there and back and I loved it. Sometimes it was frightening at the same time it was intriguing and irresistible.

Price's main character, Ben, is a sympathetic young man who is just trying his best to be a typical junior in high school. Like a lot of boys his age, he wants to be like other, popular guys and he, frankly, doesn't want to deal with his bizarre and sometimes violent, mentally ill mother. Is it too much to ask to have a grown up to help him, or at least a friend to discuss the responsibility and problem?  Herein lies the crux of all that torments Ben, and it is within this labyrinth that Ben must also find an answer to the Lizard People who terrify this mother and live in the stories of his friend, Marco. 

Mr. Price offers a fantastic journey that juxtaposes realism and the fantastic straight from the mind(s) of those who seem normal. I found it so gratifying that things weren't always as they seemed, and that the ordinary was sometimes slightly "off" but still within the acceptable in Ben's current live as in ours.

That families of the mentally ill are truly left to fend for themselves much of the time, and that many fear and ostracize them is something that Price clearly shines a light upon. I wanted to cheer his initiative. I loved the storyline that expressed it. 

This is a book that has more depth than may first appear. There are messages here that are valuable for young adults and adults alike regarding the mentally ill and those who care for them. I applaud Mr. Price for his life work, and for having the humor coupled with the heart to bring such a beautiful and enjoyable book to our lives.

I loved this book which flowed like a charm and was a charming story of hope and resilience with a dash of laughter. Also perfect for the classroom.

5 stars Mr. Price!!  See more of him and his books at: http://www.charlieprice.com/



Pedantic Phooka

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