It’s counterintuitive. Alligators and Crocodiles are not usually the first animals that come to mind when we think of cuddly and sweet. I haven’t spent much time in Florida, but my dad has, and he’s told me about walking by sleeping crocodiles that, in his words, “leave you alone.” Maybe so, but I wouldn’t test it!
So we have these animals that most of us agree are interesting, but we’re not going to cozy up to them. And then you look at the children’s picture books starring alligators and crocodiles. They are such endearing characters that it almost makes you want to visit the Everglades and inquire about bringing a baby home as a souvenir. If you’re not sure about that, think about these cute reptiles:
Lyle, Lyle Crocodile by Bernard Waber
Hoory for Amanda & Her Alligator! by Mo Willems
There’s an Alligator Under My Bed by Mercer Mayer
Alligators All Around by Maurice Sendak
And now there are two more excellent books to show your young reptile fan — The Watermelon Seed by Greg Pizzoli and Oliver and his Alligator by Paul Schmid. Both are delightful and funny stories that just beg to be read aloud.
The Watermelon Seed is about that universal fear that crosses your mind the first time you swallow a watermelon seed. I remember as a child being concerned that my stomach would grow to accomodate the growing green ball – just like this crocodile does. He also worries about his skin turning pink which, to be honest, never crossed my mind. What makes this book so awesome is the crocodile’s facial expressions. When he’s thinking about landing in a fruit salad, it’s hard to resist trying to pick him up and reassuring him that all will be well.
Oliver and His Alligator is a gentle story about first-day-of-school jitters. An important picture in this story is on the beginning endpapers – before the title page. There we see Oliver, still in bed, holding a toy alligator. He is already nervous – which becomes more apparent when you turn the page and see Oliver staring at his uneaten breakfast. Oliver’s alligator (or his imagination) helps him to face his fears and begin to enjoy school. This is a book I will keep close by during the first week of school!
By the way, the little alligator (crocodile?) hiding in the plant at the top of the post is a pen. I like the way he blends in with the leaves! At this point in my life, I should know the difference between alligators and crocodiles. Most of my students do. I need to ask one of them in September!