The Unexpected Crocodile

The Unexpected Crocodile

The Unexpected Crocodile










The Unexpected Crocodile

Kim Kane

Sara Acton

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

Sylvester & Arnold

Sylvester & Arnold

Sylvester & Arnold









Sylvester & Arnold

David Bedford

Tom Jellett

Little Hare, 2013

Hbk., RRP $A24.95



Sylvester was a BIG, TOUGH croc.  And so was Arnold.

Sylvester wore tough-croc shorts,

A tough-croc vest and tough –croc boots

When he went out to play

He put on an ugly tough-croc face.  So did Arnold.


Both spent all day making sure that everyone in the big, wide swamp where they lived knew who was boss.  But they had never met, until one day…

This is a delightful story of how these two crocs set out how to be fiercer than the other but then an even bigger threat arrives and suddenly they are bullies no longer. It has a twist in its tail that is charming and offers much to discuss about being friends and building friendships.

Tom Jellett’s illustrations are the perfect accompaniment and offer a lot to explore about perspective.  Even though each page is the same size, how does he manage to portray the size and fierceness of Sylvester and Arnold and then dwarf this with his illustrations of Betty?

There is plenty of scope for little ones to be both the fierce, tough Sylvester and Arnold and then contrast that with the meek and mild Sylvester and Arnold as they try to sneak away under the cover of darkness. Whole-body interaction accompanied by emotions, expressions and noise!

It would also serve as a great introduction to the research process if you ask the students what they already know about crocodiles before you read it. Then, afterwards, discuss which parts might be true and which parts are made up. Share other fiction stories about crocs and then contrast these with the factual resources highlighting the difference between what is written for the imagination and what is written for information. Introduce the interpretation of text by showing how the Bedford and Jellett can let their imaginations roam because their purpose is to entertain rather than inform.  If your non-fiction resources are separate from the fiction, explain the library layout and where the crocodile resources are located.  And there are dozens of ways each could present what they have learned to create an engaging display for the library’s walls.

Who would have thought 32 pages could contain so much???

What is a Crocodile’s Favourite Thing?

What is a Crocodiles Favourite Thing?

What is a Crocodiles Favourite Thing?










What is a crocodile’s favourite thing?

Ben Hawkes

Jonathan Cape, 2013

pbk., RRP $A14.95



One of the world’s greatest unanswered questions – until now.  What IS a crocodile’s favourite thing?  Is it a racing car that looks like a sausage or maybe riding a tricycle made of jelly on the moon?  No – it’s …!

Children will have a lot of fun with this book, not only making up crazy-daisy scenarios that might be the answer but also interpreting them in art!  But beware of the twist in the tale. 

This is another one of those quirky picture books that just looks like a lot of fun on the surface, but which, in the hands of a creative teacher, can lead to a lot of literacy and language learning. 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…














Christopher Cheng

Mark Jackson

Walker Books, 2012

Hbk., RRP $A29.95



“It is morning in the bush. Python stirs and sleeps out from her sheltered, nocturnal resting place…” She is looking for breakfast, but there are other important things to attend to, and in this beautifully illustrated book we learn so much about this magnificent creature in a way that immediately engages both the young reader and the adult reading to them, as well as those who can read for themselves. It truly meets the tag “suitable for all ages”.

Chris Cheng is the MASTER of a genre I’ve dubbed ‘faction’ – bringing real life to life through story. Even though the story only took place in the author’s imagination, it is so well-researched and accurately portrayed that it could have happened, and, as we read, we get both information and insight into these extraordinary creatures. Television news likes to show images of the bulging belly of pythons that have eaten quite large creatures, but who knew they got inside because the python can unhinge its jaws to swallow them, and then expand their bodies to digest them?

As well as the story, there are interesting facts on each page and absolutely spectacular, detailed illustrations from Mark Jackson. The whole becomes a fantastic package for learning about pythons that is perfect for the younger reader – and as teacher librarians, we all know the fascination snakes have for them. This book will not stay on the shelves. You’ll need two copies – one in the fiction section and one in 597.96. If you are recommending books for the Christmas stocking through your newsletters, this one HAS to be on it. Both parent and child will thank you.

If you are a parent with a youngster who is fascinated with snakes, this is a most charming book that will satisfy the need for a story and the need for information.

If you’re still not convinced, take a sneak peek where there are teachers’ notes and be sure to visit Chris Cheng’s site for more goodies, including a unit of work designed for the classroom.


Inside "Python". Mark Jackson's illustrations are superb.

Inside “Python”.Mark Jackson’s illustrations are superb.