Review: The Good Ship Crocodile by J. Patrick Lewis

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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.

The River by Alessandro Sanna

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The River by Alessandro Sanna

Travel through four seasons along the Po River in this breathtakingly beautiful book.  Made almost entirely of watercolor images shown as either full-page or a series of panels, this book asks readers to pay close attention to the images and discover the story told there.  Each season starts with a brief paragraph that offers clues to what is going to happen.  Autumn is a season of floods.  Winter is described as warm, which will surprise many young readers as will the newborn calf.  Spring is music and white clouds.  Summer is dry and hot.  Each of those seasons is brought to life with the watercolor images with palettes that change through the seasons, purples in autumn, blues in winter, gold in summer.  Each more beautiful than the last, so that you just want to begin it again when it ends.

This is the first book by Sanna to be printed in the United States, but he is well known in his native Italy.  He has created a book here that is artistic and wildly lovely.  Told primarily through his art, the storylines are consistently seasonal, intense and surprising.  The use of the river as a symbol for the passage of time works perfectly here.  The changing colors also serve to remind readers that time is passing, change is constant and the world is gorgeous.

One big question with this book is what age it is appropriate for.  With its minimal words, it might be expected to be perfect for small children, but thanks to its artistic approach, I believe the audience is quite a bit older.  Children who enjoy art will be able to appreciate it in elementary school.  Yet the audience I see really loving this book are middle and high school teens who will delight in the watercolors, the surprises and a picture book that suits them well.

Beautiful, moving and vast, this nearly wordless picture book will be enjoyed by elementary aged children through adults. 

Reviewed from copy received from Enchanted Lion Books.