Friday, January 30, 2009

Book Review: I, Crocodile, by Fred Marcellino

     "And a crocodile," he bellowed. "I must have a crocodile."
     Suddenly some bozos with funny hats and a big net were all over me.

This is the story of a particular Nile crocodile, told by the crocodile himself. He lives a contented life in Egypt, a life of crocodilian leisure, until one day a famous stranger arrives, and his idyllic life is uprooted. He finds himself one of the objects Napoleon wishes to take back home to France. Once there, he lives a new life of leisure, with some celebrity thrown in, and he comes to love this life as well. But when Napoleon's interest wanes, the crocodile is in danger of being dinner, instead of eating dinner. What is a captive crocodile to do? How will he possibly escape this culinary fate?

With pictures that complement the text perfectly and add even further detail to the story, the reader gets a very sharp picture both of the crocodile's personality and feelings, and of the unusual situations he finds himself in.

For Teachers and Librarians:
I, Crocodile is so much fun. Your students will delight in either hearing or reading this story, with the crocodile's humorously narcissistic ways, its love of eating, and its smug, self-satisfied mannerisms. But, beyond a funny story, it is also an excellent teaching tool for you. From the history angle, there is Napoleon and his famous conquests and collections, and his invasion of Egypt. You could delve into a bit of basic anthropology: the ancient Egyptian's propensity for crocodile worship, and ancient Egyptian treasures such as the Spynx, obelisk, and temples. How about some earth science, discussing the Egyptian landscapes and plant and animal life?Science can fit in with some discussion of the crocodilian diet and habitat needs. Or how about travel methods in the late 1700's: ocean ship voyage, horse-drawn coach, and horseback? You can even touch on a bit of French history at that time: Paris, fountains, Napoleon and his collections and exploits, French Fashion, food, etc. You can even talk about how this book pokes fun at that old, persistent rumor of crocodiles living in the sewers. So. Fun and educational! How can you possibly resist?

Scroll down to "Wrapping Up" in this post, for a link to a video you can use for your own edification, as well as share with your kids.

For Parents, Grandparents and Caregivers:
You and your kiddos will thoroughly enjoy I, Crocodile. The crocodile tells his own story. He is at times smug, at times narcissistic, at times sentimental, but always funny. There's even a bit of poetic justice thrown in at the end, which will have both of you giggling, for sure. If you read the teacher section above, you've already noted the educational aspects - which might spur a trip to the library to get some books on the subject, or a fact-finding mission online. Definitely a book you'll be glad you shared with them!

For the Kids:
Can you imagine a crocodile sitting down to tell you a story? That is exactly what happens in I, Crocodile, but don't worry - he doesn't want to eat you. He just wants to tell you all about what happened to him when his perfect crocodile life was totally turned upside down when a little man on a big white horse decided he wanted to take the crocodile home. All the way from Egypt to France! For a while, the croc is doing great - until the little man (Napoleon) decides the crocodile isn't so great anymore, and our crocodile friend is in danger of becoming dinner! Does he escape this awful fate? What happens next? Better go find this book, so you can find out.

For Everyone Else:
I, Crocodile is a work of art, both in picture and in story. Pay close attention to the pictures, as they tell even more of the story and may even provoke a few giggles at the situations presented. A fun diversion for adults, even if you don't usually read books for the little guys.

Wrapping Up:
I, Crocodile isn't your typical picture book - it has a bit of a twist in both story and picture. To see and hear the story come to life, as well as hear the late author discuss the book, click this link: Pulcinella Press. Scroll down to the end, and you'll see a video near the right hand side of the page which you can click to view (it opens into a new, small window). There are links in the last of the text on the page, as well, where you can choose to watch it in either QuickTime format, or Windows Media format. Well worth the 7+ minutes it will take to view! And kids can watch it, too.

Title: I, Crocodile
Author and Illustrator: Fred Marcellino
Pages: 40
Reading Level: Ages 4-8
Publisher and Date: HarperCollins, September 8, 1999
Edition: 1st Edition, Third Printing
Language: English
Published In: United States
Price: $15.95
ISBN-10: 0062051687
ISBN-13: 978-0062051684

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