Review: Lizard's Tale by Weng Wai Chan

on Middle Grade
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Lizard's Tale by Weng Wai Chan
Published by Text Publishing
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A thief. A spy. A mysterious codebook. And a whole lot of trouble.

It’s 1940 and World War II is being fought in faraway Europe. Lizard doesn’t know much about that. He lives in Singapore’s Chinatown, surviving on odd jobs and petty theft.

When Boss Man Beng asks him to steal a teak box from a suite in the glamorous Raffles Hotel, Lizard knows the job is important. But can he know just how dangerous it is?

A sinister man appears in the shadows, and Lizard’s best friend, Lili, shows up with unexpected fighting skills and her eyeon what’s in the box.

And Lizard finds himself on an exciting, action-packed adventure in a world of coded secrets, Japanese invasion plans and undercover spies.


Lizard’s Tale is a gorgeous middle-grade spy adventure, set in Singapore in 1940. Weng Wai Chan does a great job crafting a rich and vibrant adventure story within the historical context of British colonisation, the looming Second World War and fear of a Japanese invasion, in a way that is informative and mindful for younger readers.

The story follows Lizard, a young boy surviving on his own in a big city. He is an endearing and resourceful main character, with a good level of complexity. He relies in part, on the generosity of friends, and also by taking odd jobs. Ultimately, one of these jobs embroils him in a kind of trouble wildly outside his control. How he came to be alone in a big city, and the mysteries surrounding his family are interwoven into the current adventure.

Lizard’s friendships and the way various characters support him is a real highlight. I really love a story full of vibrant characters, especially when written with personalities and quirks as if they are fully realised people outside the words on the page. The characters are lovable - I especially enjoy Lili is smart, resilient and kind with quick understanding and ability to put together information and make decisions in a precarious situation.

With a fast-paced plot, full of intriguing mysteries and terrific characters, Lizard’s Tale is a story that will absorb readers of all ages.

Weng Wai Chan was born and grew up in Singapore. She now lives in Auckland with her husband and three children. Lizard’s Tale is her first book. You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter.