My name is Wendy Townsend and this is my website. Here are my books and pictures of my lizards and me.
The big handsome guy I'm holding is Emo. He's a rhinoceros iguana. Emo hatched from his egg missing most of his tail, and he is blind in his left eye. But none of that slows him down one bit. The other big handsome guy behind us is Spot, a green iguana. Spot lived to be at least 25 years old, and that is old for a green iguana.
REVIEWS for BLUE IGUANA
“Blue Iguana has it all: an appealing young protagonist, an exotic locale, beauty, suspense, drama, and unforgettable lizards. This wonderful book will resonate deeply with young people who despise cruelty and who want to make a difference in the world.”
—Sy Montgomery, author of Kakopo Rescue: Saving the World’s Strangest Parrot, winner of the Robert F. Siebert Award, 2011.
"...Townsend (The Sundown Rule) convincingly portrays a high school student with a passion for all living things, who spends a life-changing summer caring for endangered blue iguanas on Grand Cayman Island. ...Give this absorbing read to any nature lover."
—Jennifer M. Brown, Shelf Awareness
"Through tight, measured prose and well-paced plotting, Townsend skillfully tells the story of a highly sensitive and impassioned teen struggling to reconcile her credibly intense emotions with a need to make her way in life. Informative and well-researched details about blue iguanas are intellectually and emotionally compelling, bonding the reader to both the animals and to Clarice in her devotion. Clarice is a heroine of exceptional quality, a young woman who wades through her plaguing self-doubts and reaches the other side, recognizing her personal challenges but ultimately refusing to let them limit her.... Give this to a fan of Schrefer’s Endangered (BCCB 1/13), an animal lover, or a sensitive soul looking to find her way."
—The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, RECOMMENDED
By her junior year of high school, Clarice knows that her sensitivity to animals makes her different from other kids— and not necessarily in a good way. She hasn’t gotten her driver’s license because she worries about hitting frogs and turtles in the road. She causes a scene in biology class when the teacher is about to cut open a living frog. Even little kids can draw her wrath: she reacts swiftly and angrily when a playmate of her autistic brother, Joe, casually tears Joe’s pet millipede in two.
Then her school counselor suggests that Clarice do volunteer work for wildlife conservation over the summer. Online, she discovers BIRP, the Blue Iguana Recovery Program, and a few weeks later she is on her way to Grand Cayman Island to join field biologists and volunteers at an iguana preserve. When catastrophe strikes, Clarice is forced to come to terms with cruelty beyond her worst imaginings— and finds a place for herself in the effort to protect an extraordinary, and extraordinarily vulnerable species.
A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to the International Iguana Foundation.
When I was a little kid I played in the woods and around the pond, finding frogs and turtles and snakes to talk to and hold. Standing in the mud by the pond holding a frog, everything was right in my world. There was something between the frog and me. I wanted to tell him that I loved him and I knew he was listening. It was the same with the snakes and turtles I found, and birds, too, and praying mantes, spiders, and the mice who lived in the old pump house.
When we moved to New York City, my mom knew I needed to have pets. We had a baby snapping turtle, a red-eared slider, a speckled king snake, two gerbils, two cats, two parakeets, minnows I collected from the pond in the park, and some snails I rescued from a market in Chinatown. Then I saw an iguana for the first time, in a glass tank in a pet shop. In those days iguanas were not captive-bred, but taken from their home in the tropical forest. I absolutely needed to help him survive in that city of concrete where nobody understood how he felt.
In school I was learning about the web of life, and ecosystems. I learned that if I wanted to get anyone to care about frogs and iguanas and snakes, I needed to show their importance in the ecosystem. So I tried to be a field biologist. I went to the U of Miami, Florida, but I barely passed the exams in chemistry and biology and gave up studying and went around campus finding lizards and tree frogs. A few years later I tried again –Cal Poly Pomona, a pre-veterinary program, but still couldn’t do the hard sciences. By then my animal family included nine green iguanas, a boa constrictor, two tokay geckos and two cats.
After dropping out of college again I met veterinarian and author Fred Frye and we wrote a biology and husbandry book on iguanas. Still, though, I wasn’t able to say what I needed to. I really did not know how to write. Plus, in a scientific venue it is hard to talk about what it feels like to connect with an animal. But in fiction, I could. So I went back to school to learn about writing stories for kids. Once I accepted that writing was what I needed to do, I wrapped up my undergrad degree in a year at Empire State College, and went right into the MFA Program in writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College. I had the best time! And I started to write LIZARD LOVE. I wanted to show how my lizards and snakes got me through being relocated from the pond to NYC and also, through an unhappy adolescence. It was a step in the right direction.
My relationship with animals has helped me find fulfillment, and gratitude for my life. I’ve come to understand that where I need to be is at my desk --with my lizards basking under their lights close by-- working on a piece of writing with pen and paper. It’s true that I have stories to tell, but really, I see it as an excuse to be still and quiet. It is the same as being by the pond holding the frog.
I live in this barn with my husband (Mark), 5 iguanas (Sebastian, Emo, Ava, Luna and Che), and 2 cats (Buster and Birdie).
Sebastian and Ava on deck, before we put up the big basking cages.
This is a hugelkultur garden we're making to grow plants and flowers for the iguanas to eat.
Lizard food: collards, turnip greens, chickweed, lamb's quarters, plantain, yellow dock, natsutium leaves, wild mustard, mullien and many more.
BLUE IGUANA was short-listed for the Green Earth Award