Review of Beware of the Crocodile

Beware of the Crocodile
by Martin Jenkins; illus. by Satoshi Kitamura
Primary    Candlewick    32 pp.    g
3/19    978-0-7636-7538-7    $16.99

Heeding the old adage “when introducing a topic to children, start with what they know,” Jenkins initiates his discussion of crocodiles with their most prominent feature: those fascinating and intimidating teeth, which Kitamura depicts in all their spiky glory. From there, it’s an easy segue to the crocodile’s predatory behavior, but sly understatement tones down this aspect: “they’re not at all picky about what they eat as long as it’s got a bit of meat on it.” What happens when crocodiles spot their prey is “rather gruesome,” so Jenkins opts to “skip the details. Let’s just say there’s a lot of twirling and thrashing and then things go a bit quiet.” He soon juxtaposes this action with the care the female gives to her eggs and eventual hatchlings, pointing out that these babies are now (temporarily) prey — even to their own fathers. The account comes full circle as these young crocodiles grow up and become predators themselves. Related details appear in smaller type on many pages, while an author’s note adds information about habitats and classification. Kitamura’s mixed-media illustrations correspond with the text but include a bit of whimsy in extratextual features, such as the depiction of a nattily dressed crocodile scanning a restaurant menu of favored prey in the back matter. Chomp down on this one; there’s a lot of meat on these narrative bones. Appended with an index.

From the March/April 2019 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Betty Carter
Betty Carter, an independent consultant, is professor emerita of children’s and young adult literature at Texas Woman’s University.

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