The Princess and the Crocodile

The Princess and the Crocodile
Laura Amy Schlitz and Brian Floca
Walker Books

Cossetted from the start, the ‘perfect’ being that is Princess Cora is then – once the realisation dawns on her doting parents that she’ll one day be the ruler of the land – scheduled for every single minute of her time for fear she won’t measure up to the task.

A nanny is hired to ensure she’s always neat and clean – a three baths a day regime is introduced; and when she’s not in the tub, her mother is making her life a misery with deadly dull tomes or her father subjecting her to a gruelling fitness regime.

One night though the girl decides a dog might just make her life bearable but neither her parents nor the nanny are willing to entertain such an idea. In desperation the Princess writes to her fairy godmother and then rips the letter to pieces and tosses them out of the window. Here Schlitz injects a lovely magical touch “because it was a letter to her fairy godmother, every scrap turned into a white butterfly and flew away’.

Perhaps though she isn’t sufficiently specific in her request for the following morning what should be at the foot of her bed but a gift-wrapped crocodile.

The two strike a deal. For a day, in exchange for cream puffs the crocodile will take Cora’s place giving her a day of sheer unadulterated freedom.
First though there’s the issue of a suitable disguise: that comes in the form of a frilly frock and mop wig together with a promise not to eat anyone.

The creature keeps his promise while managing to create utter havoc around the palace with an appropriate degree of ferociousness: dunking in the tub and nips for the nanny,

insults and nips for the Queen and lashings, clawings, bitings …

and incarceration for the King, allowing Cora a wonderful day outdoors being thoroughly wild,

getting messy, wet, and even managing to step in a cowpat.

Witty writing and delicate yet energetic, and often very funny illustrations, make for a wonderful read aloud or read alone chapter book. Either way, I imagine a good many listeners or readers wanting to devour this whole riotous neo fairytale in a single sitting.

Enchanting from begin to end. A book that will appeal to those who love princesses, justice, a good giggle and even perhaps, crocodiles. The latter will certainly love the one herein.

Barkus / Lulu Gets a Cat

Barkus
Patricia Maclachlan and Marc Boutavant
Chronicle Books
Meet large brown dog, Barkus, “Smartest dog in the whole world.” So says globetrotting Uncle Everton when he arrives on the doorstep one day with what he calls “a present” for the young narrator, his niece Nicky. Nicky is reassured to learn that Barkus doesn’t bite and thus begins a beautiful friendship.
Over the next four short chapters we learn how Barkus follows Nicky to school and is adopted as the class dog; celebrates his birthday in a very noisy manner;

discovers a kitten and is allowed to keep it, naming it Baby; and finally, camps out for the night and enjoys an autobiographical story by torchlight.

The five amusing episodes are linked but the separate events provide suitable stopping points for readers just embarking on early chapter books.
Marc Boutavant provides appropriately cheery, retro style illustrations that range from full page to vignette.
All in all an upbeat, engaging read about family, friendship and the benefits of having a winningly positive attitude to life and its possibilities.

Lulu Gets a Cat
Anna McQuinn and Rosalind Beardshaw
Alanna Books
In her latest story Lulu wants a cat and sets about showing her mum that she’s ready to have one by doing some research on their care and putting in some practice on her cat toy. Eventually Mum is persuaded and off they go together to the cat shelter.

There, Lulu doesn’t so much choose a cat, but is chosen by one of those she’s shown.
Cat shelter worker, Jeremy provides some helpful advice; they go home and make preparations; and return next day to collect the new pet. Lulu gives her cat the beautiful name, of Makeda, which means African Queen and after a period of adjustment, it’s not long before Makeda is well and truly settled into her new home.

Lulu never fails to delight: this new story, endorsed by the National Cats Adoption Centre, ticks all the boxes for showing the very young that becoming a pet owner involves considerable responsibility, as well as introducing the basics of adopting a cat.

I’ve signed the charter