Brief Thief by Michael Escoffier and Kris Di Giacomo

Whether people abide by the laws and rules of society and/or religion says more about their ability to obey than their integrity since they are probably compelled to do so because, a) they are afraid of being caught; and b) they don’t want to face the (perceived or real) consequences. Often, it’s through what people choose to do when there are no laws or rules, and little to no possibility of them being discovered, that you can see their true colours. Thus, while children generally have an innate sense of right and wrong, it’s also important for the adults around them to cultivate and reinforce their moral values so that they will hopefully grow up choosing to do what’s right even when — as is often the case — it’s difficult or less convenient, and no one is around to tell them to do so.

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In Brief Thief, Leon the lizard borrows a pair of seemingly abandoned pair of old underpants for his own use during an emergency, soiling it in the process. Just as he tosses the underpants into the bushes, however, suddenly, out of nowhere, he hears a loud voice questioning his actions. Leon is chastened when the voice identifies himself as his “conscience”, i.e. “the little voice you hear inside your head whenever you get up to something naughty”, and berates him for taking something that belongs to someone else.

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And even though Leon tries to justify his actions, he realises that “his conscience” has a point, and proceeds to do his best to restore the underpants back to its original state and place.

What elevates this book beyond being just a run-of-the-mill moralistic tale, however, is its amusing premise and the hilariously unexpected and game-changing twist at the end that throws Leon’s (and probably the readers’) assumptions off-kilter. We can always find a way to justify the choices we make — particularly the ones we’re least proud of, if only to make ourselves feel better — but this quirky book will make you wonder if there’s ever really a good reason to do the wrong thing.

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