cover image Villain's Lair

Villain's Lair

Wendelin Van Draanen. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $12.99 (201pp) ISBN 978-0-375-84376-1

Van Draanen (the Shredderman books) sets a madcap new series in motion, introducing 13-year-old Dave and Sticky, a talking gecko he rescues from the clutches of a neighbor's cat. The lizard drags the boy to the ""maniacal mansion"" of a ""dastardly demented"" scoundrel to retrieve ancient ingots which, when placed into slots on an Aztec wristband, give the wearer superhuman abilities. Though Dave is hoping to snatch coins that bestow invisibility or flying powers, he instead grabs an ingot that enables him to scale walls gecko-style (explaining the possibly confusing title of the series), best the villain and become a hero. Peppered with exaggerated alliteration and the excitable lizard's Spanish-tinged ""Stickynese"" (""Freaky frijoles!""; ""Holy tacarole!""), the wisecracking narrative bounds from one slapstick scenario to another. Gilpen's halftone illustrations add to the good-natured inanity, and a glossary collects Sticky's vocabulary. Dave reappears-and, courtesy of another ingot, disappears-in The Gecko & Sticky: The Greatest Power, due in May. Ages 8-12.