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CROCODILE LISTENS by April Pulley Sayre


by April Pulley Sayre & illustrated by JoEllen McAllister Stammen

Age Range: 4 - 7

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-688-16504-4
Publisher: Greenwillow

Natural history for the younger set manages to be playful without being precious. Sayre tells the story of the first few hours of a life of a crocodile’s brood in short, sharp sentences that recall her earlier work (Dig, Wait, Listen, p. 505, etc.) and that capture well the African wildlife tumbling around a mother crocodile as she waits for her eggs to hatch. As agreeable for reading aloud as onomatopoeia is (and Sayre enlivens the well-used device with a nuanced sensitivity to rhythm and sound, adding layers of alliteration and assonance to spare prose), the real interest lies in the contrast between the deadly mother and her care for her young—a contrast heightened by the clearly observed pastel illustrations. McAllister Stammen makes the most of her medium, employing traces of purple, blue, and even pink to give the mottled hide of the crocodile a realistic edge, while razor-sharp foregrounds and blurry backgrounds give the vignettes the air of National Geographic photographs. In a striking spread, Crocodile conveys her babies to the Nile in her jaws, the squirming little ones peeping out in a way both startling and fascinating. An author’s note adds few facts that a bright reader would not be able to infer from the story, but it does provide specific scientific information. By refusing to sentimentalize the mother crocodile’s role, the author and illustrator encourage readers to see beyond stereotypes and look at the natural world with a more balanced eye. (Picture book/nonfiction. 4-7)