Princess Cora and the Crocodile by Laura Amy Schlitz

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PRINCESS CORA AND THE CROCODILE
Written by Laura Amy Schlitz
Illustrated by Brian Floca
(Candlewick Press; $16.99, Ages 4-8)

 

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Starred Reviews- Booklist, Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal

Princess Cora and the Crocodile is an 80-page illustrated early chapter book about a princess who must always be a “good girl.” When Princess Cora’s Fairy Godmother answers her wish for a pet, instead of the “great, furry, golden dog” of her dreams, the princess receives a headstrong crocodile. He tries to give Cora a day off and, because the three adults in charge of the princess’s rigorous schedule barely glance at the girl, the crocodile’s disguise initially succeeds.

The ensuing mischief will tickle children—they are insiders on silliness being played on the rigid, demanding authority figures. The crocodile tries to not swat anyone with his tail or bite them, but succumbs when instigated. Kids will laugh as he rips the King’s trousers and chews on his rear end. Meanwhile, instead of bathing, studying, and skipping rope, Princess Cora relaxes in nature. After the crocodile’s overzealous intervention, Princess Cora returns to set things right. The adults finally register the girl’s dissatisfaction and recognize other ways to properly raise a princess.

Floca’s ink, watercolor, and gouache images capture the humor as both the crocodile (dressed in a frock and mop wig) and the princess come undone. The crocodile’s antics cleverly contrast against Princess Cora’s quiet day.

A skilled storyteller, Schlitz satisfies her audience utilizing a child’s universal wishes. Princess Cora and the Crocodile will delight early readers as well as younger children. The heart of this princess and animal tale shows a kid needing a break from adult-imposed overscheduling—a message with modern appeal.

  • Reviewed by Christine Van Zandt

Writer, editor, and owner of Write for Success www.Write-for-Success.com

@WFSediting, Christine@Write-for-Success.com


ALLY-SAURUS & the First Day of School by Richard Torrey

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Ally-saurus & the First Day of School
Written and illustrated by Richard Torrey
(Sterling Children’s Books; $14.95, Ages 3-6 )

Starred Review – Publishers Weekly

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Even dinosaurs get starting school jitters, in fact, maybe even those who are actually little girls pretending to be dinosaurs.

“Do you think there will be other dinosaurs in my class?” asked Ally-saurus.
“I think you’re going to make a lot of new friends,” said Mother.

Introducing Ally-saurus, an enthusiastic, pig-tailed little girl with an active imagination. At first it seems that making friends will not be easy. None of Ally-saurus’ classmates chomp their snack with fierce teeth or “ROAR!” like she does. Instead they eat quietly much to Ally-saurus’ surprise. She was expecting everyone to be wild about dinos just like her.

Torrey cleverly uses black and white plus a lot of shading in his illustrations so the snippets of color that he adds stand out and really a make a statement. For example, a pink tail and ridges crayoned onto Ally-saurus throughout the book indicate that Ally is imagining herself as a Stegosaurus. Later, Robert is the first classmate to get his hint of blue color as he imagines himself to be an astronaut when he and Ally-saurus cut out nameplate designs for their cubbies. During a lesson on the weather followed by one about letters, three princesses begin voicing their opinions as gold crowns and dresses are outlined on them.

Then, at lunchtime Ally-saurus is told by these princesses that:

“These seats are saved for princesses, not dinosaurs,” said Tina.
“You’re not a real princess!” roared Ally-saurus.
“You’re not a real dinosaur,” said Tina.
“Then why am I eating dinosaur food?” asked Ally-saurus.
“That’s baloney!” said Tina, and the other princesses giggled.

Ally-saurus is left to sit alone elsewhere until she is joined by several other students, all eager to share what they enjoy pretending to be. “Soon the whole table was roaring and chomping.” It isn’t long before Ally-saurus and the kids from her lunch table are running around during recess playing make-believe and having a blast. Ally-saurus realizes too that dinos and princesses can find common ground over pretend cups of tea.

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Reprinted with permission from Ally-saurus & the First Day of School © 2015 by Richard Torrey, Sterling Children’s Books, an imprint of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. Illustrations by Richard Torrey.

Best of all, in the school library, (my favorite place), Ally-saurus along with her classmates discover there are books about all kinds of things … including bunnies. And guess who’s got a pink bunny tail and bunny ears drawn on when she hops out of bed the next morning? Note: There’s an unassuming little bunny lamp on a night table in the last illustration. Plus, Torrey has cleverly covered the endpapers in front with dinos and at the back with bunnies, something I only noticed on the second read! That’s sure to make children want to go back again and again to look for more details.

Add Ally-saurus & the First Day of School to your back-to-school list for an ideal picture book to share with youngsters. It’ll help them realize they’re not the only ones who get nervous starting school. It’s also a great way to start the conversation about the give and take necessary to form and keep friendships.

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel


The Princess and the Presents by Caryl Hart

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The Princess and the Presents written by Caryl Hart
with illustrations by Sarah Warburton
(Nosy Crow, 2014, $16.99, Ages 3-7)

Princess-and-presents-cvr.jpgOne pampered princess + one over-indulgent king + one birthday celebration = three times the number of presents the palace can hold. The Princess and the Presents, a picture book written by Caryl Hart with illustrations by Sarah Warburton, is an over-the-top funny story that reminds us all of what’s really important in life.

Princess Ruby is as cute as can be in her pink frilly dress, pink shoes, and pink tiara. Her poof of unruly red hair completes her sweet look. But, Princess Ruby is far from sweet. She’s used to always getting her way. She bosses the servants, pushes her dad, and throws temper tantrums when she thinks she hasn’t gotten enough presents.

“But where’s my giant tree house?”
bawled the greedy little tyke.
“you promised me a cell phone,
three puppies, and a bike!”

The palace creaks, groans, and ultimately explodes from the precarious piles and pillars of presents pushing up against its walls. Only then, is Princess Ruby remorseful, as her father is trapped beneath the rubble.

“What have I done?” wailed Ruby.
“The best gift I ever had
is buried in a pile of bricks.
PLEASE! Help me save…my DAD!

Everyone comes to help save the king, who had taken cover in a cardboard box. Ruby miraculously makes the most of the mess, and, as all fairytale princesses do,

Lived happily ever after with her daddy (in a tree).

The palace walls are not all that explode in this book. Warburton uses vivid colors that pop off the pages. I poured over them a number of times relishing the details of her visually pleasing mixed media illustrations.

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Interior artwork from The Princess and the Presents by Cary Hart with illustrations by Sarah Warburton, Nosy Crow © 2014.

Cary Hart has a way with rhythm and rhyme. Her words fly easily off the tongue and are sure to elicit a “read it again” response from little ones.

– Reviewed by MaryAnne Locher