Sunday, December 05, 2010

Crocs Rock!

Bears and elephants are arguably the most popular animal protagonists in children's tales. The crocodile is more often than not viewed with distaste/ suspicion. This is reflected in fables and mythology and even Tinkle's Doob Doob, for those of you from India. But to be fair, some authors have tried to give this animal its due and some illustrators have managed to impart a degree of cuteness to the reptile.

Listed here are some of the interesting Alligator/ Croc tales/ books that we have enjoyed, some celebrating and a few defaming the reptile.



Lizzie Finlay's Little Croc's Purse from Red Fox is about a croc who tries to find the rightful owner of a lost purse. There are temptations galore but honesty prevails. There is also a lesson on Share and Save tucked in the book. The illustrations are really candy sweet and what struck me was how endearing the crocodiles looked in this book. It is indeed a good read, though the book is a tad too direct in its message.




Crocodile Beat by Gail Jorgensen from Aladdin Books, is a tale in rhythm and makes a wonderful read aloud. The animals in the jungle are having fun at a party. Each double spread has one animal making its typical sound. Meanwhile, the stereotypically nasty croc is hungry and just waking up. The resourceful lion saves the day in the most ingenious manner.



Izzie Lizzie Alligator by Suzanne Tate from Red Fox. This one is realistic and talks of an alligator whose breeding is low due to chemical spills in her habitat. Helpful Humans redeem the situation and the next time round Izzie has over 40 babies!! A very simply rendered message coaxing kids to take responsibility for the environment. This book is sponsored by Coastal Wildlife Refuge Society.


Fred the Croc by Matt Zurbo from Lothian- Fred is a tourist attraction in Australia. When he gets bored he resorts to very unusual means to turn newsworthy again. The story to me was a pot shot at fame seekers who do anything to stay in the news. Fred finds it acceptable and exciting to be notorious. Lighthearted, but it took some tough explaining on my part to my daughter, as to why Fred indulges in misdemeanours. Great colourful illustrations abound in this tale!" Yeah, it was written on two levels. One, as a kid's book. They love it. The 'CHOMP!' is, apparently, great fun to imitate. It was also a modern moral fable on the cult of celebrity" shared the author Matt, when I wrote in to him.


Crocodile Tears by Jonathan Lindstrom & Sandhya Rao from Tulika is a lovely universal tale. It is filled with emotions- centred around the fear of losing a friend. It covers a range of attempts made by a group of animal friends who find one of their gang missing. This is for the slightly older reader as it is heavier on the word count. The illustrations are fluid and evocative, making children want to doodle.



Have you seen the Crocodile? by Colin West from Walker Books has been enjoyed a few years ago by Sandhya and her daughter A. Here is what Sandhya had to say about it- The parrot, the dragon fly, the bee, the butterfly and the frog want to play. They have to make sure that the CROCODILE is nowhere around. But search as they might, they cannot find him!
'...."Have you seen the crocodile?" asked the parrot. "No," said the dragonfly. "Have you seen the crocodile?" asked the parrot and the dragonfly. "No," said the bumble bee..........' And it goes on this way, adding a new animal to the list with each repetition. With everyone searching for the crocodile. Including us. For the illustrations lend themselves beautifully to the hunt, camoflaging the crocodile ... who is very much there in each double spread. So what happens? Read the story to its snappy ending to find out.

Vibha adds on to this cluster with Croc Talk by Zai and Nikhil Whitaker, again published by Tulika in association with Madras Crocodile Bank Trust. The book is about the very special bank which has unique kind of wealth - hundreds of crocodiles. Out of the 23 total species of crocodiles in the whole world, 14 of them are now at the Bank. The Crocodile Bank began in 1976, with the goal to conserve endangered crocodiles. This small book is full of interesting information about crocodiles and other reptiles. A wonderful guide, an activity book and a peep into the crocodile's life - all rolled into one.


The Madmomma shares with us her thoughts on Things you should know about Crocodiles: Dangerous reptiles of the wild by Steve Parker and illustrated by Steve Roberts. The perfect book for a nature crazy little child above the age of 5, it is part of a series by Miles Kelly on various animal families including Big Cats, Owls, Whales and Bugs. Each double spread deals with one type of croc and tells you what it hunts, where it lives and a little about its physical aspects. The Brat is now reeling off random facts like, Muggers steal from fishermen, saltwater crocs are the biggest reptiles and so on. The illustrations are crisp and the text is easy to follow even for younger children. It is a little fact heavy but that is to be expected from a reference book. And for a child like the 5 year old Brat who is obsessed with animals, no amount of fact is too much. What is really interesting is the way the book brings these dangerous creatures into the realm of interesting so that they inspire interest, not just fear.

The monkey and the crocodile from Karadi Tales is an interesting retelling of an old Panchatantra classic and the narrator, Naseeruddin Shah's voice makes this audio book a richer experience.

The Bird Who Was Afraid to Clean the Crocodile's Teeth by Taylor Brandon from DC Mango books really made me question my own fear of reptiles. Not to say that I am over it, but I am at least a few shades more tolerant than before. The book is a sweet tale about how appearances can be deceptive.

Pchak Pchak from Young Zubaan has been reviewed here before and if you have not read it earlier please do so!

Do tell us your favourite croc tales! And if you live in or visit Chennai, do not miss the Crocodile bank.

23 comments:

nanands said...

Crawlies which are not in our line of sight and approach our feet first, evoke a primodial fear in all of us. It is important to train children to overcome some of this fear. Stories are the best way to do it...

artnavy said...

Well in my case, the stories did not suffice to wipe out the fear entirely but surely reduced it...

Swapna said...

Nice post...
A loves refering to a Crocodile every now and then (She hasnt realized the crawliness as yet)

These books would amuse her to no end, I think.
Will be on the lookout...thanks Art

artnavy said...

Swapna
I think A will find them delightful....

Choxbox said...

Agree with nanands.

Then there is Adi Shankaracharya’s crocodile - who did not let go of him till his mother gave him permission to leave worldly bondages and pursue spiritual enlightenment. The child knows of this courtesy ACK!

Been to the Crocodile Park, that too with an animal-mad person, but that was years ago. Would like to go again, this time with the kids.

sandhya said...

We have read Tulika's 'Crocodile tears' and enjoyed it.
I'm not sure fear of creepy-crawlies can be easily eliminated with the use of books. Kid here refuses to even eye a book that deals with a spider. So those wonderful books by Ranjit Lal and such are ruled out. Exceptions have been Charlotte's web and Itsy bitsy spider.

artnavy said...

Very Interesting message by email from Matt- the author of Fred the Croc

" Hi. Wow, that was great! Been meaning to ask. How did someone on India get hold of Fred?

One last thing about Fred - it was inspired after seeing Ice Age, a great, typical Hollywood movie. It bothered me that the sabertooths that never ate a single thing were heros and the ones that wanted to eat to survive were badies. This beautification of nature is, I believe, a negative image. I really wanted to do a story about a creature that is likable (sort of), cheeky, has personallity, but eat things. Not as a badie, but as a fact of life.

Anyway, thanks again. Was very impressed with the site.......

warm regards,
Matt!

artnavy said...

chox
do tell me how the kids like croc bank at chennai when you go!

Sandhya
for me snakes are a no no- i try avoiding snake parks/ books / movies etc - except Kaa in Jungle Book maybe

Choxbox said...

Will do Art.

My kids are fine with all reptiles (including komodo dragons) - and that has sort of made me give up the creeps I’d get when close to them (in the zoo).

the mad momma said...

what a lovely collection, Art. You've inspired me to do a series.

artnavy said...

chox- ur kids are inspiring and btw what happened to your cluster?

MM- thanks for your input and will look forward to yours

Meera Sriram said...

Well put together Art! I guess crocs have finally got the well-deserved and long due attention and respect here at ST!:)

Seeing the title 'Croc's purse', I instantly thought the story had something to do with (and not using) croc-skin leather purses, but later realized it was an innocent tale. But seeing the message in Izzie Lizze, again from Red Fox, it was not a bad guess, after all:)

artnavy said...

Yes Meera - the need for conservation is an important message across species- even in kids books- much needed but sad as well....

ranjani.sathish said...

Great work Art in collecting and bringing to the readers a set of similar books. Neat and crips reviews !! Each books seems to be so different, with the main character as the same.

Vibha said...

A wonderfully compiled list on crocs Art. Such nice stories weaved around them.

artnavy said...

Thanks Ranjani- each book is pretty different from the other yes

vibha- :-)

ashokscape said...

I learnt to love crocs after doing that Croc Talk of Zai's. And they are such graphic animals too. I remember that the only croc I loved as a kid was the one that chomped on Hook's hand in Peter Pan. :D

artnavy said...

hi Ashok
thanks for your comment.

On an unrealted note, we love your Gajapati Kulapati at home.

GB said...

I love Vikram Seth's version of The Crocodile and the Monkey too! It was my favorite as a child!

artnavy said...

oh yes GB from Beastly tales- i even have an author signed copy of the book... lovely one in verse yes!

artnavy said...

Adding on another lovely croc tale from Katha that we read this weekend

by Geeta Dharmarajan and art by award winning Rashin Kheiriyeh

Resh said...

Wonderful posts as usual. Wanted o add this wonderful African story called "Crocodile and Hen" to the list of fabulous croc stories. It rely is a patient croc who manages to reason out why he cannot eat the hen by discovering their relationship :)

artnavy said...

resh
thanks and this sounds like such a sweet tale about celebrating commonalities

http://www.amazon.com/Crocodile-Hen-Bakongo-Folktale-Read/dp/0064442632

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