Review: The Good Ship Crocodile by J. Patrick Lewis

good ship crocodile

The Good Ship Crocodile by J. Patrick Lewis and Monique Felix

Snout was a crocodile who lived on a river.  During the rainy season, the water level would rise and other animals would get into trouble.  The fireflies could not fly in the falling rain, so they asked Snout to carry them to the other side of the river.  Across they went, riding on his back and even in his mouth.  Day after day, Snout carried animals across the river to safety.  Finally, when the sun came out again, Snout realized that he could no longer see his home because he had drifted far downstream.  Now it was Snout’s turn to ask the other animals for help returning to his home.

Lewis served as U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate from 2011-2013 and in this picture book, you can see his skill with words on every page.   Lewis creates an entire world here, including an unusually kind crocodile.  His words are so simple and uncomplicated, yet they create a sturdy structure for the story.  He doesn’t offer rationalizations for why this crocodile is so kind, but clearly shows that doing kindness for others will inspire them to do it for you when you need it most.

The illustrations in this book are breathtaking.  Felix creates a crocodile that looks wonderfully real, particularly in the very close up images.  As the crocodile takes different animals across the river, the text goes silent, allowing time for the reader to mentally make the journey too.  It also builds a great tension where readers will wonder if he will snap his jaws shut at any moment. 

Beautifully told and illustrated, this is a strong addition to any story time on crocodiles or kindness.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Planet Kindergarten by Sue Ganz-Schmitt

planet kindergarten

Planet Kindergarten by Sue Ganz-Schmitt, illustrated by Shane Prigmore

Told in the first person by a little boy, this picture book mixes science fiction, space exploration and Kindergarten into one awesome picture book.  The boy has been training for this day for some time.  He has gotten supplies, been checked by a doctor, and the countdown to lift off has begun.  He arrives at the Kindergarten door and his parents leave, returning to their own planet.  He joins a classroom filled with aliens from across the galaxies.  The commander gives them the day’s flight plan and then they start activities in the capsule, get to explore the planet’s surface for a bit, and even eat space food.  By the end of the day, it is Mission Accomplished!  And then time to get ready to do it all again.

Ganz-Schmitt nicely ties in science fiction touches throughout the book.  The boy’s parents say goodbye with a Vulcan salute!  She also focuses on NASA and space flight, pulling these two related but distinct subjects together seamlessly.  Children who are fans of either will be right at home here, giggling along with the puns and the idea of school being a space capsule.  Her humor is right on, offering just enough to be funny but not too much to lose the concept of it being a Kindergarten book.

Prigmore’s illustrations have a great zany quality that suits the subject matter.  I love the other little boy with the hood so that you only see his nose and mouth as well as the other children who look like aliens but you can also see the person in there too.  He plays along the line of making it about space but also allowing readers to see the human school underneath too.

Funny and filled with action and adventure, this book will get even the most nervous Kindergarten astronaut giggling about their new mission.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.