THE SMILE OF A CROCODILE by Eugene Eoyang

THE SMILE OF A CROCODILE

: Rhymes for Chloe (and Kyle)
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KIRKUS REVIEW

An academic’s foray into children’s books results in a strange collection of awkwardly constructed rhymes paired with flawed illustrations.

Eoyang (Two Way Mirrors: Cross-Cultural Studies in Glocalization, 2005) presents a series of short, illustrated rhymes dedicated to his grandchildren Chloe and Kyle. Many of these are motivational couplets designed to teach children important values. “On Being Pretty” advises attractive girls to be friendly because “it’s always a pity / when pretty girls are not so nice,” while “Being Pretty Is Not Enough” stresses the importance of intelligence in good-looking young ladies. Rhyme schemes are attempted but often fail, which is particularly ironic when it happens in the poem “Rhyme.” The penultimate poem “Smile” warns against two-faced people who are superficially nice but secretly malicious. The title of the book is borrowed from this foreboding rhyme, infusing the collection with a vaguely morose tone. Harper’s illustrations, which range from quirky to creepy, further this feeling–to illustrate the poem “Discipline” he uses a horse wearing blinders being fed by a little girl also wearing blinders, and “On Being Pretty” features a row of noseless Rockettes being monitored by a cigar-smoking manager. The most endearing part of the collection is the personal touch Eoyang brings to the rhymes, though this ultimately ends up being the weakest aspect. The author includes rhymes specifically addressed to Chloe and Kyle which seem to rely on inside familial jokes rather than broader, more relatable subjects. Eoyang goads Chloe to teach Kyle to read, and creates a poem based on Kyle’s mispronunciation of the word “equal” as “eagle,” complete with an illustration of a suave Kyle golfing with some bald eagles.

A sweet gesture from a grandfather to his grandchildren, but unlikely to be embraced by the reading public.

Pub Date: March 5th, 2008
ISBN: 978-1-4196-8614-6
Program: Kirkus Indie
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