Channeling the can-do attitude of a certain little engine, Lewin’s alligator comes out on top with some help from his friend and despite the bullying of another gator.
Limited, repetitive text invites new readers to adopt the same spirit of determination about reading that the protagonist alligator does about swimming when he confidently tells his friend, “I can win” after they spy a sign reading “Big Race Sunday” posted on a tree. His self-assurance is challenged by a bigger, scowling alligator wearing a red cap, who snarls, “No, you can’t.” Bickering leads to the bully shoving the littler gator, and then a spread showing the friend (who wears a pink bow on her head to distinguish her from the others), who says, “Yes, you can.” She encourages her friend as he practices for the race even while the antagonist continues to say “CANNOT,” and our hero perseveres. When the day of the big race arrives, the good guy does finish first, rejoicing, “I did it!” dripping wet and wearing his first-place medal, while his proud friend looks on. Throughout, Lewin’s restrained watercolor-and-ink artwork matches the control of the text, providing ample, white resting space for the eyes while delivering engaging and expressive characters. Subtle shifts in the placement of speech balloons provide humor while helping children decode.
A winner of an early reader. (Early reader. 5-7)