Private I. Guana

Created by Nina Laden

“What color was he when you last saw him?”
I. Guana grills his client in “The Case of the Missing Chameleon”

The original reptilian gumshoe, as far as I can tell, has a few tricks up his sleeves. And they’re not just for kids.

Anyone who thinks Eric Garcia’s Anonymous Rex (1999) is a first should cast their eyes back to 1995 and Nina Laden’s PRIVATE I. GUANA, the gumshoe iguana of her 1995 children’s book, The Case of the Missing Chameleon.

As far as kids’ books go, this one is pretty good. It’s for kids in the “Read-this-to-me!/Look! I can read!” age group. Laden wrote and illustrated this tale of ace detective I. Guana, hired by Liz, a comely lizard, to find her missing hubby Leon, a chameleon. Hot on the trail, Guana makes the rounds, searching the swamps and forests, questioning salamanders and bullfrogs.

It’s a great little read, full of brightly coloured illustrations, puns galore (verbal and visual–some of ’em real groaners!), in-jokes and the like, an affectionately-sly wink at all those detective film cliches of the beautiful client, the seedy dive, the glamourous nightclub singer, the missing husband and the almost-required-by-law fedora and trenchcoat, worn with great style by Mr. Guana himself. A perfect intro to the genre for young readers, and a treat for parents as well.


  • Private I. Guana: The Case of the Missing Chameleon (1995)Buy this book


Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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