We’re all aware that mice star in oodles of kids’ books…
…as well as bunnies…
Recently I’ve recognized the sizable number of alligators and crocodiles lurking there as well. What business do these toothy, scary fellows have in stories for tots?!
Today’s list introduces crocs and gators who are darling, kind, gullible, nibbly…and okay, there’s one menacing guy who needs prompt attention!
The Baby Swap, by Jan Ormerod, illustrated by Andrew Joyner
published in Australia in 2013; first published in the U.S. in 2015 by Little Simon
Caroline Crocodile has a new baby brother.
Mama cannot stop gushing over him. Oooh, isn’t he gorgeous, she croons. “He is as green as a grub and his eyes are as yellow as egg yolks.”
On and on it goes, this mooshy adoring, this colossal affection.
Caroline just doesn’t see it. This baby is a smelly, dribbly, mess. Furthermore, Mama’s smacky-smoochy kisses belong to her, not that little bugger. So, she decides to swap him out. Trade him in at the Baby Shop for another brother.
She tries out tiger twins, a cute panda, a jolly baby elephant. Which of them will win the role of the just-right baby brother?
Funny, rollicking, and sweet, this is a warmhearted take on the new-baby-syndrome storyline written by beloved author Jan Ormerod before her untimely death. Andrew Joyner of the Boris early readers livens things up with his happy, energetic, retro illustrations. A lovely last book from one of my favorite author/illustrators, for ages 2 and up.
Winston & George, by John Miller, illustrated by Giuliano Cucco
published in 2014 by Enchanted Lion Books
“Along a sleepy river deep in the jungle, there once lived a very, very patient crocodile named Winston.”
Winston has a buddy, a crocodile bird, named George. These guys hang out every day fishing together on the limpid, languid, river. They make a terrific team.
However, George gets bored far too easily and unfortunately for Winston, George turns to pranks to amuse himself. The pranks all feature Winston and his crocodile companions as the fall-guys. These other crocs are not nearly as nice as Winston and urge him to give that bird what he’s got coming. Winston steadfastly refuses.
One day, though, George’s prank goes seriously awry and puts Winston in mortal danger. When he’s finally rescued, will Winston have mercy on George, or take the advice of the jungle community and punish the pest once and for all?!
This book followed quite a unique road to publication, which you can read about in the end notes. It was written, actually, back in the 1960s, and you’ll have to check it out to find out how it finally saw the light of day just last year. The brilliant illustrations, with vibrant colors radiating the heat of the jungle, were made by an Italian artist who has since died. They are gorgeous.
Enjoy this vigorous tale of friendship with children ages 2 and up.
Mrs. Chicken and the Hungry Crocodile, by Won-Ldy Paye and Margaret H. Lippert, illustrated by Julie Paschkis
published in 2003 by Henry Holt and Company
This story originated with the Dan people of northeastern Liberia, a people known for their rice farming, story-telling, and mask-making. It’s such a clever tale, brought to us by Won-Ldy Paye who heard it from his grandmother.
Mrs. Chicken, vain thing that she is, loves to gaze at her reflection in puddles. The problem is, puddles are just too small to see all her beautiful self, so she hot-foots it down to the river to have a better look.
Hungry Crocodile lurks in the river, and as Mrs. Chicken preens and lingers, Crocodile shrewdly positions himself…until…SNAP! He’s caught her. A delicious dinner is a’comin, he thinks.
Not so fast, though. Mrs. Chicken may be conceited, but she’s also keen-witted. She hatches a mighty clever plot to save herself from the cooking pot. Will she succeed? Or not?!
Set against dramatic black pages, I love Julie Paschkis’ work. Her popping colors and m-o-v-i-n-g lines and folk art motifs show up wonderfully in every book she has a hand in. This delightful story will entertain kids ages 2 and up.
Doodle Bites (A Tilly and Friends Book) written and illustrated by Polly Dunbar
published in 2009 by Candlewick Press
Tilly lives amiably with her friends in a darling yellow house. There’s Tumpty the elephant, Hector the piggy, Pru the chicken, Tiptoe the bunny, and Doodle — a restless and toothy alligator.
Maybe it’s the Spring in the air, maybe it’s just a growth spurt…who knows…but one morning Doodle wakes up feeling bitey!
She just can’t control herself. First it’s the cereal…and cereal bowl…and cereal box. Then it’s the lamp shade. But it’s when she spies Tumpty’s curvaceous and tempting bottom that things really get out of hand.
How will Tilly and company manage Doodle’s naughty nibblings?! There are lots of tears to start with, until the tide starts to turn and a generous heaping of love and copious bandaging set things right.
Darling story with Polly Dunbar’s cute-as-punch illustrations, in a story that hits the sweet spot for ages 18 months and older.
Warning: Do Not Open This Book!, narrated by Adam Lehrhaupt, illustrated by Matthew Forsythe
published in 2013 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (A Paula Wiseman Book)
There are plenty of warning signs right from the get go in this alarming and rambunctious tale!
The end-papers are strewn with them: “Stop! Don’t Turn the Page! Wait!!” they admonish. There’s even a gaunt skull lying about with a label: Here Is The Last Guy Who Read This Book.
It’s all on you if you recklessly proceed.
If you do — and I should know because I ignored all the warnings and like a fool plowed ahead — I’ll just tell you that you’ll meet marauding monkeys, tumultuous toucans. And. An. ALLIGATOR!!
In the end, Adam Lehrhaupt mercifully gives us instructions for how to trap them all back in the pages of the book. Do you think you’ll be able to follow them?!
Slapstick, rowdy fun here. Perhaps not a bedtime story! But a read-it-again zinger for ages 18 months and up. Matthew Forsythe’s bold illustrations careen and flap and bluster with pandemonium!
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