Good Ship Crocodile, The

The Good Ship Crocodile

J. Patrick Lewis (Author)

Monique Felix (Illustrator)

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A crocodile named Snout assists his animal neighbors by ferrying them across a swollen river, then is repaid for his good deeds when he is in need of help.

Reviews

During the rainy season, Snout the crocodile watches the river rise. Sparkle the firefly asks Snout to carry a group of "soggy fireflies" across the river, as they cannot fly in the rain. After the obliging croc helps them, other neighbors ask for rides as well. On wordless double-page spreads, Snout ferries frogs, a squirrel, and a family of mandrills across the water. Downstream when the rains end and the river dries up, Snout is lost until the fireflies find him, light his way, and guide him home. Lewis, a former Children's Poet Laureate of the United States, tells Snout's story with simplicity and grace. Felix, a Swiss artist, contributes a series of engaging watercolor-and-pencil illustrations that bring the gently personified animal characters to life within a vividly realized African setting. Fine for reading aloud, the quiet but compelling story and large-scale illustrations will appeal to many young children.

–Carolyn Phelan, Booklist Online , November 2013

You know it must be picture book magic when Children's Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis teams up with Monique Felix, illustrator of one of my personal favorites, The Story of a Little Mouse Trapped in a Book. Snout is a crocodile and an unlikely good guy with a big heart. When the African rains come and the river rises, he ferries many friends across the water–many you wouldn't typically associate with trusting a crocodile! He finds out later it pays to be nice to everyone. When he becomes disoriented and cannot find his way home, a group of fireflies lights the way. This book is truly delightful. The text is simple; however, perfect for the illustrations!

Brodart Vibe Blog , December 2013

If you're looking for a new friendship book, this one may have to be it. I picked it up last weekend and read it with my students on Friday. It was the perfect book to begin with, "What do you think this book will be about?" One of my little kiddos used the picture right away to help her as I read the name of the title, saying, "I think the crocodile is going to be like a ship and help the animals. – Yay, I thought, she is beginning to think! We read about Snout and the animals that live in the river who are afraid of the rising water. We read about Sparkle and the fireflies that Snout helps to find land. We read about the monkeys, the frogs, and the families of insects and animals that Snout carefully helps across the river. One of my students begins to wonder if he will eat these animals. We all wonder what the tension will be. As darkness falls, we discover Snout is lost after working his way up the river. How will he get home? One student guesses that the fireflies will help him, and then we read about Sparkle's light guiding his way home. This book has a great message I will tap back into for partner work, so we can talk about collaborating. I will use it for noticing facial expressions in our illustration study, and because it has little text, maybe someone will grab it to read on their own. It gave us lots to talk about this Friday.

–Katie Dicesare, Creative Literacy Blog , October 2013

When the river rises during the "wet, rainy season," crocodile Snout (the "Good Ship Crocodile") ferries fireflies, frogs, a hedgehog, and other creatures across; likewise, the fireflies guide him home when he becomes lost. It's a quiet, peaceful story, and the oversize, dramatic double-page-spread illustrations stand out. Unfortunately, awkward text placement near the gutter detracts from the overall book design.

The Horn Book , 2014

Borrowing a scheme from Aesop, Lewis and Felix tell a tale of reciporacal rescue, with plenty to enjoy in the viewing. The story opens and closes with a trade-off between a toothy, realistic crocodile and a band of oddly humanoid fireflies. Snout is most amenable when the rainy season floods his river home, impeding the travels of smaller animals. The soggy fireflies, carrying leaf umbrellas in human hands, line up along the crocodile's scaly back and inside his open mouth. "So off they went." Told with economy, the text is handsomely amplified in broad spreads featuring large close-ups of the animals in the murky terrain. The fireflies are follwed by a succession of other creatures whose passage is recorded in a series of wordless pages. These unnamed neighbors–a hedgehog, a pair of frogs, a squirrel, and a family of mandrills–appear in more natural forms, albeit posed in comic stance. The frogs peering down over the crocodile's snout and squirrel's tail arched overhead as an awning convey much about their stormy journeys. "Finally, the sun gulped up all the water. Snout had drifted far down river." The crocodile, now weary and disoriented as night falls, is led back across dry land to his river by those bug-eyed, enormous fireflies. So, as the old fable tells us, one good turn deserves another, and the small can save the mighty, after all. The moral is left for readers to discern. The spare text would be flat by itself, but the pictures can almost tell the whole tale. The ugliness of the fireflies, seemingly out of character with the other drawings, is perhaps intended for comedy, but the real humor is in the trips made by their fellow creatures.

–Margaret Bush, School Library Journal , January 2014

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 to 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.

–Tasha Saecker, Waking Brain Cells , July 2014