The names of several animals that might inhabit a cypress swamp, along with a plethora of verbs, adorn pages full of brightly colored animals, plants and water.
The opening double-page spread depicts a half-submerged alligator, a generic wading bird, other aquatic life, a lurking, half-hidden mammal, and insects flitting about; the text reads, “In the swamp…water ripples.” The final spread, similar but also purposefully including a fish in another wading bird’s mouth, says, “Water ripples in the swamp.” In between are close-up, cartoonlike depictions of various critters, each glossed with a few words: “Dragonflies swoop. Dip. // Crayfish crawl. Carry. / Bullfrogs wait. Lay.” (It is unclear what, if any, are the objects of the transitive verbs. Carry minnows? Lay eggs?) Later, more active watercolor-and-ink drawings show animals eating other animals, with phrases such as “Bullfrogs pounce. Gulp.” There is a nice interruption of rhythm when the alligators emerge on land with a sudden “Alligators CHOMP!” It is unclear until the endnote that the text and illustrations are attempting to show a cypress swamp food chain in action.
The illustrations invite children to take their time finding animals and figuring out their activities; the text would sparkle equally if the author had played more with rhyme, rhythm and alliteration. (Informational picture book. 2-4)