Review by Kristi Mahoney
You don’t have to look further than the title to see the problem in this hilarious story, Crocodile Hungry (Tundra, 2022) written by debut author Eija Sumner and illustrated by John Martz. Main character, Crocodile, is hungry and sets out to find something to eat, visiting various places such as the farmer’s market, grocery store, and even the community garden. Unfortunately, Crocodile’s efforts turn out to be fruitless and he quickly goes from hungry to hangry. It’s not until the prefect solution lands right in front of Crocodile that he finally knows exactly what to eat. Martz’s art is the perfect complement to Sumner’s words, adding layers of humor and hilarious details that may just make Crocodile Hungry your next favorite read aloud.
I brought Crocodile Hungry to one of our 24 Carrot Writing meetings where, amongst other things, we discuss picture books from a writer’s perspective. It was an instant crowd pleaser. Yes, it contains a lot of elements that denotes good writing:
A clear goal? Check.
Satisfying page turns? Check.
Humor and Heart? This one is a hard one to pull off, especially in a book that’s streamlined at around 150 words. But check, check.
Yet there were two additional things that made Crocodile Hungry go from fun to fantastic: voice and the unexpected.
The voice Eija Sumner chose for the main character is not only unique and kid friendly but endearing and delightfully witty. There’s something to be said for writing in a way that leads or directs the reader how to read (or perform) the book. The voice more than begs to be read aloud- it instructs how to read Crocodile’s voice. And that makes this a fantastic mentor text for writers as well as a hilarious read-aloud.
The unexpected nature of this story is one of the main reasons it’s so successful. We might expect that if a crocodile is hungry, he’d go hunting in his natural habitat. But, instead, Sumner takes us to very un-crocodile-like places that happen to be very kid friendly and relatable. But Sumner doesn’t stop there. The unexpected continues to unfold with every page turn until the very last laugh. I don’t want to give anything away, but let’s just say that in terms of smart writing and a satisfying ending, Sumner serves up a banquet of delight.
Crocodile Hungry will leave readers guessing with every page turn and giggling (big crocodile tears) until the very last page.
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