Roger McGough, illus. Greg McLeod. London: Otter-Barry Books, hb 978 1 9130 7497 5, 2020, £12.99, 40pp.
Picture book, poetry, 7-9 years
This brilliantly evocative book is a very successful collaboration between the poet Roger McGough and the illustrator/animator Greg McCloud.
Words and pictures tell the delightful story of a crocodile who is bored with life in the jungle. This young crocodile decides to stow away on a banana boat, and head for the bright lights of London. The colourful illustrations show us the intrepid croc telling various friends of this plan to leave: ‘Pirana, I leave for London Manana disguised as a giant banana’, and telling the cockatoo: ‘A crocs’s gotta do what he’s gotta do’.
We follow the crocodile’s boat journey across the ocean and eventual arrival in London. Letters promised to mum back home in the jungle are written so we can read them. At first, they are full of joy and colour but change dramatically as soon as winter arrives. Croc begins to miss the warmth of the jungle and all the friends left behind as the city life begins to make our hero feel sad and ill. When homesick croc decides to stow away on a ‘steamer bound for Santiago’ warmth and colour begin to reinfuse the pages. Words and pictures reflect the croc’s happiness upon returning home to meet up with the jungle crew. We are left with an enduring image on the last page of the happy croc being welcomed home by HER mother!
This a perfect rhyming book to read aloud whilst following the beautifully observed illustrations. The way the design of the pages changes to accommodate the letters to home is clever and helps to reflect the different places the story is set in and around. Although the recommended age is 7-9, younger children will enjoy this book too. It cleverly teaches the difference between real tears and the crocodile ones as well as suggesting home is the best place to be. It is sure to become a classic!
Review by Shirley Hobson