This sequel to Marcellino’s I, Crocodile (1999) follows the reptile as he emerges from hiding in the sewers of Paris to stow away on his former captor’s Venice-bound caravan.
The backstory—in which Napoleon snatched the crocodile out of Egypt—is summarized on the first page. While the emperor is busy looting Venetian palaces, the protagonist realizes: “This town was made for a crocodile!” Between the ease of travel through the canals and the scent of “ragù alla Bolognese,” he is enraptured. Following his nose, he encounters masked revelers who delight in the authenticity of his costume and invite him to lunch—and a ball. Suspense builds when the crocodile’s nemesis appears just as the hero is drawn into a “catchy mazurka” with “a rather forward young lady” (ultimately, the crocodile’s champion). Marcellino wrote the sparkling, witty, first-person narrative; created a dummy; and finished some watercolors before his untimely death in 2001. French illustrator Puybaret was recently invited to pick up the mantle. While each artist’s style is unique, their toylike figures and complex architectural settings are simpatico, allowing Puybaret to honor the original style while remaining true to his own. The result is a seamless story as hilarious and high spirited as the first. The subtle coloring is artful; the pacing—constructed with thought bubbles, insets, and dramatic double spreads—is perfect.
Venice’s Grand Canal is a splendid stage for this smooth reptilian operator. (Picture book. 4-8)