In this Belgian import, Crocodile must leave his home when “the trouble” comes.
“ ‘Everything will be better where I’m going!’ he thought. ‘But where is that?’ ” Crocodile’s journey across the sea takes him to towering cities, arid deserts, and sparse countrysides, each more different and unwelcoming than the last. Wherever he lands, he finds hardship in many forms from various peoples, with clears signs warning him that this is “NOT YOUR LAND.” He dreams himself back to “safe and happy” memories spent with friends and family, before misfortune arose and food shortages became the norm. Still, Crocodile moves on, and he’s becoming “so, so tired.” Then a community of mice takes him in, and Crocodile slowly integrates into their society, new experiences building fresh, happy memories. All that’s missing is one crucial piece: family. As a refugee narrative, Crocodile’s tale offers young readers a safe, comfortable way to broach a complex subject. In the uncredited translation, the text takes care to delineate Crocodile’s journey such that it stirs compassion, just hinting at horrors left behind. Slegers’ artwork, meanwhile, contributes the most to this narrative, capturing the turmoil and uncertainty of a refugee’s journey in moody blues and shadows. Crocodile’s teeth are prominent, but his demeanor is never ferocious. What’s left unsaid in the text is made explicit in the illustrations, mainly how prejudice pops up all too easily.
A wide-eyed, open-hearted evocation of a refugee’s experience. (Picture book. 3-7)