What It Is
What are crocodile tears anyway? That’s the question this story answers. The setting is Africa, and main characters Rhino and Tickbird happen upon a crocodile who’s shedding those famed tears. The duo won’t dare ask him because they are afraid of crocodiles. So, they set out to find a wise golden eagle who might shed some light on the mystery. Though wise, the eagle wouldn’t dare ask anything of a crocodile either, and guesses that he’s crying because he misses the dwindling population of elephants. He suggests they find an elephant and ask him. The story goes on in a similar way through a variety of animals. Each animal they query is afraid to speak to crocodiles, and offers a possible reason for the tears, which mainly has to do with disappearing animals on African savannas and grasslands. When they fail to find any animal that can give them a definitive answer, they muster up the courage to speak to the crocodile. He gives them the real reason, but also gives Rhino quite a surprise. To us, the ending was so unexpected, I won’t spoil it!
Why It’s Fun
This book is a great selection to read before a visit to your local zoo. Coincidentally, my first grader has a class field trip to a zoo in a couple of weeks, and while reading the story together, we realized that she may get to see many of the featured animals. Artistically, this book is unique. Alex Beard’s illustrations give the illusion of being drawn by a child as well as by an artist. The larger size of this book (just over one foot) makes the illustrations even more fantastic and vibrant. Adding to the fun, was our guess as to why the croc was crying. I thought it was to convey a literary message that he was sad because no one would speak to him. My daughter thought it was because he missed his friends. The real reason is the actual biological function of a croc’s tears, which is to keep their eyes moist in the hot sun.
Who’s Going To Love It
The publisher doesn’t list a recommended age, but my suggestion is four and up. The illustrations and animals will appeal to children on the younger end of this range, and the learning opportunity about animal habitats and subsequent effects of building and hunting in their native Africa would be of interest to elementary schoolers. And, aside from some of the location names, the text is simple enough that children can be the reader and parents can be the listeners!
About 5 minutes
10 out of 10
Written and Illustrated by: Alex Beard
Published by: Abrams Books for Young Readers (2012)
Approximate retail price: $17.95 (hardcover only)