TYRONE THE TERRIBLE, The Chameleon Who Decided He Was an Alligator

-Product review by Destiny Mawson, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, August 2020

Tyrone the Terrible, The Chameleon Who Decided He Was an Alligator is a beginning chapter book written by Jan Lis. It retails on her website for $9.99. This short 46-page chapter book is geared towards ages 7-12, although younger children could enjoy it as a read-aloud.

Taking place in the rich setting of the Bayou, Tyrone is the “tiniest piece of nothing you ever did see.” Because of his small demeanor, none of the other Bayou critters want him on their team. Tyrone is lonely and longs for friends.

One day, while bemoaning his situation, a squirrel named Junior overhears and offers to help. Tyrone and Junior set off to begin training to help Tyrone build strength and muscles. Junior is confident the other animals will want Tyrone on their team once he bulks up.

Unfortunately, Tyrone’s new muscles also come with a new bullying attitude. Tyrone decides he’s just as big and bad as Old Sly, the meanest alligator in the Bayou. He goes around scaring and being mean to the other animals.

It takes no time at all for his new reputation of Tyrone the Terrible to travel around the Gnarly Tree Bend. When Tyrone shows up hopeful to play baseball, the other animals all run away. Tyrone realizes he is no better off now than he was before since he is still alone.

Tyrone goes off to ponder his predicament and finds himself unexpectedly laying on Old Sly instead of a log. Old Sly decides to teach Tyrone a lesson and captures him in his mouth. Tyrone pleads with Sly not to swallow him and realizes how his actions must have made others feel.

After promising to apologize to everyone, Sly spits Tyrone out on the shore. The next day, Tyrone apologizes to everyone. He and his friend, Junior, realize to make friends, you must first be a friend.

I loved the rich wordplay and imagery Lis uses throughout the book. It brings to life the deep south.

The characters are easy for children to relate to and there is a clear sense of right and wrong. Children will be able to recognize their actions have consequences, the importance of being kind, and to make friends they need to first be a friend.

My children enjoyed the story of Tyrone and the other animals of Gnarly Tree Bend. My first-grader was able to read the story on her own and then answer the discussion questions at the end.

There are many teaching points throughout this short chapter book, which makes it a good addition to a home library.

Tyrone the Terrible, The Chameleon Who Decided He Was an Alligator is a book children will enjoy and one to include on your bookshelf.


Worth reading 😎

This is a fanciful addition to the existing selection of books about picky eaters.

September 6, 2020

Sometimes, giving food a second chance makes all the difference. Timmy, an adventurous and inquisitive young boy, is served oatmeal every morning for breakfast. His mother, a quintessential ‘50s housewife, dutifully places a bowl in front of him each morning with a different topping every day. After picking off the toppings and eating only them, Timmy announces “I hate oatmeal!” and goes about his day. He receives oatmeal each morning, and every day he refuses to eat it. So, one day, Timmy wonders what happens to the oatmeal he does not eat. He follows his mother outside and watches as she spoon feeds the oatmeal to a flock appreciative, yellow birds. When Timmy sees how much the birds enjoy the oatmeal, he decides to take a deep breath and see what he has been missing.

Parents everywhere recognize the behavior of a picky eater when they see one. Some may give in, but others, like the mother in this story, are persistent in their attempts to introduce their children to new types of food. Despite Timmy’s vehement declarations, his mother is unphased, always put together and wearing a smile on her face. The illustrative style is similar to something out of Alice in Wonderland, the backgrounds often more stylized than realistic. Each time Timmy comes to the kitchen for breakfast, he is dressed as one of many unique characters. The setting for each is shown on the right side of the image, showcasing the make-believe world inside Timmy’s head adjacent to the real-life kitchen. Repetitive phrasing and structure give the story a predictable pacing, ideally suited to young elementary school-aged readers. While the text itself is short, the illustrations invite conversation about what Timmy is pretending to be. This is a fanciful addition to the existing selection of books about picky eaters.

Grades pre-K to 1


Mary Lanni
Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Posted by Christine L.Henderson 

The Work of Writing and Illustrating: Author Interview with Jan Lis

You’ve won awards for your art and your work has been exhibited in many shows. What made you decide to leave that work to write and illustrate a children’s book?
My writing for children started one fall. When the days started getting dark early, the time before dinner was a low spot for me. So, I decided to take that time and turn it into something positive. I wrote a children’s Christmas story every year at that time. Before long I realized I was enjoying writing and illustrating my stories more than just painting. And I felt the stories had more to give. That said, I have not given up on my artwork.

Which comes first for you — the idea for the illustrations or the storyline?
Interestingly, sometimes the idea for the story is first, and sometimes the illustrations are first. In Tyrone The Terrible, I wrote the story and then added the drawings. In Rags Joins the Circus, I wanted to be free to capture any part of the circus I was drawn to, so I painted the illustrations first. I had a storyline in my head, but I wanted the artwork to direct the story.

How many rewrites do you do on the storyline?
I do tons of rewrites, for each story. Even Kid Lit has to have the right feel to it. For Tyrone, I did all my edits and thought I had a pretty tight story. Imagine my surprise when the publisher’s editor got a look at it!

Do your illustrations get multiple “reworks” as well?
My illustrations are a different matter. They do not get do-overs. I develop each aspect of an illustration separately and then assembly them like a montage.

I was surprised to see that you have blurbs of several of your unpublished kids’ stories on your website. Has that helped in getting other books published?
My unpublished stories have helped in the respect that I have gone on to self-publish some of my manuscripts on Amazon through Kindle Direct Publishing. KDP is a great and easy way to get introduced to the world of publishing. I followed this up by learning a few marketing skills.

Prior to writing your picture books, you wrote for newspapers. How did that help or hinder the writing of your picture books?
Writing stories for newspapers has been both a good thing and a not so good thing for me. The plus side is that I am able to condense the story action into a few words. The minus is that my stories tend to be too condensed, and I have to work at extending the storyline.

You are represented by the Hartline Agency. How did that come about?
I am represented by a wonderful agent at Hartline. I went online and read through many agent bios until I found the one who seemed to be a perfect fit for me. You don’t even want to query an agent who doesn’t represent children’s books if that is what you write. Then, and this is the most important thing I have found in promoting yourself, I went to a conference where he was, and set up an interview with him.

How much time daily do you have for writing or for artwork?
I think writers have the easiest part. Illustrators get to do the hardest. That is the way it works out for me anyway. I always have many story ideas, and writing them down is easy. Editing takes a bit more time. But the most complex and time heavy is putting together and painting the illustration. That said, it is the part I most enjoy.

What has surprised or frustrated you the most in publishing books?
What I have found the most surprising in the industry is how helpful everyone is. Tyrone being my first non-self-published book, I am amazed at the willingness of everyone to help me get started. To answer my stupid questions, and have patience with my getting it all wrong.

What is the best advice you’ve been given about writing or that you’ve learned that you would like to pass along?
Looking back on my desire to pursue writing, there is one thing that has made all the difference  — attending Writer’s Conferences. Conferences are where you meet people and make the contacts that are so necessary in getting your book published. You learn to hone your craft in the workshops and meet exciting people working in your genre.

Any other thoughts you’d like to add about writing and illustrating?
As a final thought, though for me it is a first thought – do what you love. Write what you know. For years, I wrote my stories, and they got put in the drawer. It seemed like my writing was going nowhere. But I kept at it, and it has worked out. You will make it.

Is there a new book coming out you’d like to promote?
As a matter of fact, there is a new book to shout about. It is a Picture Book titled, I Hate Oatmeal. The book will be released in November. It is Mom’s comic answer to a picky eater.

That’s all for today’s interview. If you’d like to see more of Jan’s writing and illustrations, here are some links to get you started.





Raju Chacko –

Loved it! 😍

An excellent storybook for children by a gifted author. It might be enjoyable for children of all ages too!

Tyrone is the skinniest chameleon in the swamp. No one wants him on their team. After going on a fitness program, Tyrone gets carried away with his new self and terrorizes his friends in Gnarly Tree Bend until he meets Sly, the meanest gator in the bayou. Looks like Tyrone is gumbo.
The moral of this story? Someone is always bigger and badder than you, so you’d best make friends along the way.
Tyrone the Terrible is a bullying tale. The feisty chameleon picks on his bayou buddies before meeting his match. In the process, he learns the value of friends and family and how actions have consequences.
This delightful story is filled with swampy animal characters with a distinctly southern voice—not quite Brer Rabbit, but a good deep-south feel.
I chose Tyrone the Terrible by Jan Lis for review because I succumbed quickly to a temptation I experienced while glimpsing its synopsis. What I read (in the synopsis) led me to believe that here lay an opportunity to revisit that sublime land of bygone days inhabited by such worthies as Puff the Magic DragonMowgli and his “Jungle Book” friendsthe critters in “Aesop’s Fables”, and many more. You know it too; it’s a brief walk down memory lane to days when you were young (if you’re ‘old’ now!)—an irresistible land, full of lovable animal rascals, scoundrels, Terribles and Horribles, whose joys we cannot equal but share.
As I started reading Tyrone the Terrible, I realized I had entered that innocent land of fun and frolic once more. I was walking along the dirt path near a chameleon’s house. From the book, I discovered his name was Tyrone. A short while later, I saw him sitting on that rock named Sun Rock (near the bend in the river they call ‘Gnarly Tree Bend’). He was born not too long ago. He was so thin and puny that I couldn’t believe destiny held the role of a Terrible for him, but strangely it did!
This book for children is sure to enchant, draw, and cast that familiar spell of wonder and awe, that a superb story casts on an eager audience of young children when told. The hand-drawn sketches aid in visualizing and make it more enjoyable. The only problem is it’s short and there isn’t another story in the book to tell an audience member who insists on being told one more. And there’s a moral to learn too: being terrible works, but success is short-lived under a regime of terror. In the long run, you risk losing your honor … or even being killed by one more terrible than yourself! A Terrible lasts only until another that’s more terrible arrives … so, why not try being friendly in the first place?
There is no magic or scary stuff, aliens or UFOs, etc. in Tyrone the Terrible, so wary parents can drop all fears and buy it boldly for their kids. It’s suitable for school going kids up to (say) grade six and ideal for the younger members in this group. I recommend it whole-heartedly to parents all over the globe for use for their children.

Donna Cline –
My sons really enjoyed this book, they thought that Tyrone was funny, although they did wish that more of the characters would have been illustrated as they liked the front cover of the book. They were able to easily read and understand the moral of the story. They gave it five stars. –

Vicky Sluiter –
What was your first published work, and how was it received?
My first children’s book is A Treasure Book of Poems for Young Readers. It is self-published through Amazon. When it debuted, the self-publishing industry was in its infancy. Over the years, it has done quite well. Treasure Book is a fully illustrated collection of poems about pirate treasure, lazy dogs, sand castles, night noises and more.
Q. When creating your characters, do you base them on people you know, create them totally from scratch, or do a combination of both? Elaborate if you would like.
A. Usually my characters come from something in real life. Then the subject gets molded into its own little being in the story. In I Hate Oatmeal, a picture book that will release this fall, there is a family of baby ducks. Not to give the story away, what the baby ducks do is something I actually observed.
Q. How do you insert the faith element into these stories so that it is woven naturally into the storyline?
A. Some of my children’s books are written specifically for the Christian market. These kids are already familiar with some of the gospel message. But in both secular and Christian stories I try to include a good moral theme told in a humorous way. In Tyrone, I allude to the Bible story of Jonah and the Whale. Then I return to the Jonah Bible story with a question in the Discussion section.
Q. What book was the most difficult for you to write? The easiest for you to write? Why?
A. The most difficult to write is a Young Adult book – Best Friends Forever, A Story of Ruth. It required a lot of research into the customs of the period. However the story gave me a chance to engage young readers by asking questions pertaining to friendship. The easiest was Tyrone The Terrible. I loved writing the back and forth dialogue between the characters.
Q. Do you have aspirations of your book being turned into a film or TV series? Definitely. I think Tyrone is perfectly suited to be an animated movie. The characters have such great personalities. And the plot is a current theme. Already in the works for Tyrone is an Audio version.

Amanda Nicolle –
My thoughts: This is an adorable book for kids and adults to enjoy reading to spark conversations about bullying. I love the Southern feel that this story has (think Brer Rabbit). The illustrations are darling and I appreciated the discussion questions at the end of the book. This is an excellent book to have in your personal library!

Jane Mouttet
I am a K-12 librarian at Mesilla Valley Christian School. I have a masters degree in Children’s Literature and hold a NM teaching certificate with a Library Media Endorsement.

Jan Lis has written a teaching tale to encourage children to not bully others. Tyrone the Terrible is a short children’s book with discussion questions at the end. Tyrone is a chameleon some children will be able to relate to – at the beginning of the story he is a bit of a runt and left out of things. Once he builds his strength he becomes a bit of a bully until he gets a taste of his own medicine.
Since the characters in the book are animals which talk, it could be considered a fantasy book. Due to its teaching message it could also be considered a fable. The book could find a use as a read aloud for lower elementary or even as a reading group or literature circle book for advanced readers in second grade through low readers in fourth or fifth grade.
There are no problems which would prevent this book from being added to a K-12 Christian school library.

Mindy Houng –

What character did you connect to best in this book?
That is hard to answer because I love them all. Each character is quirky in his own way. I guess Oscar Possum comes close to being my favorite. I am intrigued by a possum who hangs upside down and wears glassed while reading the novel Moby Dick.
Which scene was the most difficult to write?
That would have to be when Tyrone discovers he is not lying on a log resting in the water, but on an alligator’s nose. I tried to capture Tyrone’s surprise and fear when he realizes the gator is opening his toothy mouth, and Tyrone is about to tumble in.
What inspired this book?
Tyrone The Terrible is the result of watching a skinny little chameleon in my back yard. Over the course of a summer he ate and ate and developed into quite an impressive fellow. I combined this with the question – What would happen if this filled-out chameleon became a bully?
Which author influenced you the most?
Robert Louis Stevenson is my first choice among many writers. As a kid I read Treasure Island. The book had been my father’s when he was a child. It was given to him for Christmas by his aunt. I still have the book. It is illustrated by N. C. Wyeth. That particular book began my love of writing and illustrating children’s fiction.
What is your favorite Bible verse?
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits. Ps 103:2. It reminds me to rely on the Lord for everything in my life. And to praise Him in all things.
Thank you Jan, for your time in allowing us to get to know you better!

Caryl K –
Great review! Sounds like the perfect book for my neighbor’s children.
Debbie P –
This sounds like a great read for my son.
Becky L –
I thought this was a cute kids’ book. I could see elementary students having fun trying to attain the swamp voices.
James R –
Sounds like a great read, thanks for sharing.
Julie W –
This sounds like a wonderful book to read along with children.