Day: April 4, 2017

Princess Cora and the Crocodile by Laura Amy Schlitz

Princess Cora and the Crocodile by Laura Amy Schlitz

Princess Cora and the Crocodile by Laura Amy Schlitz, illustrated by Brian Floca (9780763648220, Amazon)

A Newbery Medalist and a Caldecott Medalist join forces in this wonderful mashup of princess tale and crocodile naughtiness. Cora is a princess who tries her best to do what her father the king and her mother the queen want. She takes three baths a day, studies dull books about finance, and exercises by jumping rope. Over and over again, day after day, until she simply can’t take it anymore. So she writes to her fairy godmother and asks for a pet. But when she opens the box, it’s an enormous crocodile rather than a dog. The princess and crocodile switch places for a day and chaos ensues. The princess has a lovely messy day outdoors exploring and playing. The crocodile meanwhile forces the nanny into the bathtub, locks the queen in the library with only the dull books, and chews on the king in a most sensitive spot! Still, a crocodile may be exactly what this royal family needs.

Schlitz is a chameleon of an author, moving with grace and skill from one sort of format to another. Here she seemingly effortlessly creates a chapter book for newer readers that reveals from the very cover that there is great fun inside. The brilliant and highly unusual combination of princess story with dresses and crowns with a crocodile who isn’t afraid to bite royal ankles and bottoms is pure brilliance. This is a princess book that I would merrily give to any child whether they enjoy princesses or not, after all, there’s a funny crocodile who makes it all wild and wonderful.

Floca’s art is an impressive pairing here. He runs with the mashup of princess and crocodile, the art having a serious tone at first as the royal family is depicted in all of their earnest childraising. The Victorian feel of the book is perfection, until the crocodile appears. Then a green wildness comes into the story, filling it with sharp teeth and plenty of attitude. Floca’s art though is broad enough to fit Victorian rules with crocodile play on the same page with hilarious results. It’s the play of the rules and formality against the silliness that makes the art such a joy.

A great chapter book pick, share this one aloud in a classroom because it will appeal to all readers! Appropriate for ages 6-8.

Reviewed from copy received from Candlewick Press.

All Ears, All Eyes by Richard Jackson

All Ears, All Eyes by Richard Jackson

All Ears, All Eyes by Richard Jackson, illustrated by Katherine Tillotson (9781481415712, Amazon)

This picture book starts from the turn of the first page before the title page even appears. Questions are asked that let us follow the falling leaves into the book itself. The book layers words and questions, asking readers to look at the illustrations for the answers and creating rhymes that carry the reader deeper into the woods. The story follows a fox and a cat, as they make their way through the forest with an owl’s call haunting the air. Other sounds appear as well, inviting readers to guess what they are hearing and seeing. This is a sensory feast for children and an invitation to explore the night.

Jackson plays with language throughout the book. His poetry is layered and complex. It is created to be read aloud where the buried rhymes suddenly come through and the rhythms beat more strongly. Just as the book is about following sensory clues, the poetry is like that as well. You simply must give yourself up to the experience of reading it aloud rather than trying to control it at all. Throughout it is surprising, quiet and wild.

Tillotson’s illustrations are as rich and complex as the poetry. She crafts a wildness using perspectives and small details. Other pages are filled with darkness and near silence, then there is more to see and hear. Children will love looking for animals that they can just glimpse on the page: the porcupine disappearing into the darkness, the treefrog nearly invisible on a log.

A brilliant book to share aloud, this picture book is wild and free. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum Books for Young Readers.