A version of the popular cumulative rhyme with swamp, ocean, and bayou creatures on the menu.
As Lee opens with a weak partial rhyme—“I don’t know why he swallowed the moth. / It made him cough”—and closes clumsily with “one final cough” that “carried everything off” (i.e., in a big upchuck), this doesn’t measure up to the plethora of tighter, sillier, more colorful variations on the old ditty. Still, as the increasingly walleyed gator’s subsequent victims include a crab, an eel, a ray, a pelican, a panther, a manatee (“He lost his sanity to swallow a manatee!”), and a shark before he guzzles an entire lagoon, there’s at least a regional bent to the cast. Also, the jaunty cadences lend themselves equally well to being read or sung, and Opie’s occasional cutaway views of a swelling reptilian belly and its scowling inhabitants add comical suspense to his green-dominated wetland scenes. As the gator survives the experience, this can be added to the versions by Lucille Colandro (14 so far and counting) and others that gloss over or revise the archetype’s mortal consequences. All the critters the gator gobbles survive too, swimming or flying away in bedraggled dismay.
May be of some interest for its cast, if not its cleverness or language. (Picture book. 4-6)