The Chameleon Wore Chartreuse



A tale that can make a grown-up giggle too.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The narrator draws detention for tardiness and sassing a teacher, then sneaks out of his punishment.


At one point, the teacher, Old Toady, gives a student "a friendly punt to speed him up."

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Drinking, drugs, & smoking
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Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this book has a sharp ear for the lingo of pulp fiction and an intricate plot.

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What's the story?

In a tale that can make a grown-up giggle, Chet Gecko follows clues through school to rescue a first-grade chameleon. The lizard hero walks a tightrope between the strict sweetness of elementary school and the rich tradition of film noir and pulp detective novels.


Is it any good?


Will the opening of THE CHAMELEON WORE CHARTREUSE set PC teeth on edge? "Some cases start rough, some cases start easy. This one started with a dame." But the next sentence clues us in to the Chet Gecko tone: "That's what we private eyes call a girl." From there, Bruce Hale sweeps readers into the wacky world of his school-age sleuth.

With tongue firmly planted in cheek, the author slips in some hilarious lines: "She was the kind of girl I could have fallen for. If I liked girls." Hale paints Emerson Hicky Elementary School as a benign and comical, if bizarre, world with just enough goofy reality to make it stick, and just enough style to make it pulpy. Kids (and adults) who've encountered classics of the genre will enjoy some good chuckles.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about pulp fiction. What are some of the hallmarks of the genre? Does this book qualify? Why or why not?

Book details

Author:Bruce Hale
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Harcourt Brace
Publication date:February 16, 2001
Number of pages:97
Publisher's recommended age(s):9 - 12

This review of The Chameleon Wore Chartreuse was written by

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Kid, 11 years old October 31, 2011

laidback animal rebel + hardcore mystery solver = chet gecko

One of my favorite mystery books that has suave style in the midst of its mysterious adventure. Chet is one of my mystery solving heroes, and he will definitely appeal to younger ages with his laidback, rebellious "bad boy" style...or, "bad gecko", in this occasion. A book I definitely believe you should read, from a series you should catch onto to know and love.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much consumerism


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