The Unexpected Crocodile
Allen & Unwin, 2014
Pbk., 32pp., RRP $A14.99
It’s been raining for days and days and days and everything is wet and soggy. Nowhere is not – there is even rain in the chops for the barbecue and the Dawsons are coming to dinner!! But when Peggy answers the door, it is not the Dawsons standing there but a crocodile, smartly presented with a red bow tie and umbrella. No one seems surprised at his presence, not even the Dawsons who arrive with a croc-embouche for dessert. In fact, the parents are so engaged in their one-upmanship about their children’s merits that they don’t even flinch when the crocodile shows he has an appetite for things other than coleslaw.
There is something appealing about this book that is told in such a matter-of-fact manner even though the words, actions and illustrations are the very opposite of matter-of-fact. Acton’s illustrations bring those of Quentin Blake to mind and there is as much in them as in the words, a hallmark of a well-constructed picture book. Her two images of Peggy with a book before and after the crocodile’s visit suggest that it all might have been a hopeful dream but then her mother does go an buy her some sky-blue gumboots, just like the Dawsons had…
While the guide audience is 3-5 and such young readers are unlikely to see beyond the literal layer of the story, there is scope for this to be used with older students as an introduction to farce as a genre which depends on the central characters carrying on as normal while all around them the most improbable is happening. Kane’s clever word-play adds humour that maintains interest for the adult reader and the whole thing opens up a discussion about whether such things could really happen, whether adults can really go along with such events, much like Dahl’s The BFG