Rhino and Tickbird’s query about why Crocodile cries tears leads them from one animal to another, triggering troubling and provocative questions about Africa’s endangered habitats and its vanishing wildlife.
As Crocodile cries beside the Mburu River, Rhino asks Tickbird, “Why is Crocodile crying?” Rather than confront wily Crocodile, Tickbird sagely suggests asking a rare golden eagle, who believes Crocodile misses the trumpeting elephants. Rhino and Tickbird proceed to find an old elephant, who thinks Crocodile misses singing tree frogs. A solo tree frog thinks Crocodile misses flitting blue butterflies. A lone butterfly thinks Crocodile misses giraffes crossing the savanna. A single giraffe thinks Crocodile misses cheetahs sprinting across the grasslands. Cheetah thinks Crocodile misses open spaces, and Ostrich refuses to answer, burying his head in the sand. Then Rhino makes the nearly fatal mistake of asking Crocodile why he cries. Beard’s strong use of textual repetition emphasizes the somber subtext that explores the “ongoing collapse of the wild and its inhabitants,” while his bold signature pen-and-watercolor illustrations rely on line, pattern and color in a primitive style that echoes some African folk art. Like a camera lens, strongly defined borders zero in on the action among Rhino, Tickbird and the endangered animals while droll expressions on animal faces add humorous touches to this cautionary tale.
Ecological storytelling at its finest. (author’s note, glossary of endangered animals with colored photos) (Picture book. 4-8)