Looking for the Title of a Young Adult Book With an Invisible City.
May 7, 2014 6:27 PM   Subscribe

It's time once again for "I remember reading this book, sitting cross-legged in the hallway of my elementary school, and for the life of me I can't remember it and looking for the usual keywords is just failing me." You know the drill.

As I recall it, the book was about a young boy, probably in the tween age, who befriends an old (black?) man in his city, and they have to go do something important. (Rescue a family member? Find an item? Definitely a "quest" situation.)

The strongest memory I have is a sequence where they row or swim out into the lake near the city, and there's an invisible shield out there (the kid has been very skeptical up to that point) and the shield extends just below the water, and they have to swim under it and into this city that is out in the lake/ocean that is only there once in a long while, and which they have to retrieve the item/person out of.

I read this in 1981, so the book definitely proceeds that time. I recall a classic 1970s cover, so it was a relatively recent reprint when I read it. The writing style was definitely simpler than Madeline L'Engle, more in the Judy Blume or Donald J. Sobol level.

I would love to reacquaint myself with this book.
posted by jscott to Writing & Language (11 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
THAT'S LIZARD MUSIC. It's the greatest book on earth.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 6:28 PM on May 7, 2014 [18 favorites]


It's originally from 1976. And it totally holds up to adult re-reads, for the record.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 6:30 PM on May 7, 2014

3 minutes. Thank you goodbyewaffles and Metafilter.
posted by jscott at 6:31 PM on May 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you're the same age as me, this is probably the cover you remember. Lizard Music is the book that made me a writer.
posted by escabeche at 7:46 PM on May 7, 2014 [3 favorites]

Yes, that's the cover I remember! I know this book must have sparked something in me to remember it for so much of my life. This and The Treehouse Book by David Stiles, which blew my mind about what a book could be.
posted by jscott at 7:55 PM on May 7, 2014

Though it's sadly not one of the dozen & a half or so recently released in eBook format for $2.99 a pop, you can download a free audio version read by Pinkwater (a frequent contributor to NPR) himself! Daniel Pinkwater is the best.
posted by nanojath at 9:16 PM on May 7, 2014 [3 favorites]

(While I consider everything he's written great, always a quick and funny read, I'd strongly recommend Alan Mendelsohn, Boy from Mars and The Last Guru to your list, they are masterworks in a related vein to Lizard Music).
posted by nanojath at 9:19 PM on May 7, 2014 [3 favorites]

To pile on to the enthusiasm: if you're looking for a hardy edition, NYRB Classics recently put out a new printing whose cover is much more similar to the one I knew, when I checked out the book at least ten times between 1995 and 1997.

Pinkwater hasn't stopped, either. Adventures of a Cat-Whiskered Girl (part of a series) is a good read for a Lizard Music fan. And it seems he's writing a sequel featuring Victor and the lizards, the prologue to which (here's one piece) he posted to Twitter last month.
posted by dogurthr at 5:25 AM on May 8, 2014

My brother once wrote a fan letter to Daniel Pinkwater and in it he said something like, "I know you're busy so it's OK if you don't have time to write much" and Daniel Pinkwater sent back a postcard with a photo of himself apparently levitating on it, and wrote, "You said you didn't need me to write anything long so I'm just sending a postcard" which I thought was pretty funny.

The Snarkout Boys are my favorites.
posted by latkes at 6:29 AM on May 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

I am also delighted to see that Pinkwater was involved with the Norb comic, which I liked very much (I was 19 at the time). I didn't know it had such a short life - it also affected me greatly.
posted by jscott at 8:01 AM on May 8, 2014

There's a (fairly short) section on the creation (and rapid failure) of Norb in Pinkwater's book of autobiographical essays (mostly adapted from radio pieces) Chicago Days, Hoboken Nights (Fish Whistles is a similar volume, both are excellent).
posted by nanojath at 2:48 PM on May 8, 2014

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