The Crocodile Blues

Coleman Polhemus, Author, Coleman Polhemus, Illustrator . Candlewick $16.99 (48p) ISBN 978-0-7636-3543-5

Jazzy stencil shapes and five droll gatefolds lend novelty to this near-wordless story that features a mysterious croc. The pleasant but undistinguished plot is the machinery for the main attraction, Polhemus's (Daemon Hall ) high-contrast, silkscreen-style digital imagery, in saturated shades of gray, royal blue and electric yellow on white. First, readers meet a silhouetted man and his pet cockatoo, strolling home with a grocery basket. The man's loose, swingy limbs and jaunty fedora imply carefree existence. Then, on a white wall, the man and bird notice a sign, “Eggs.” One square page unfolds into three panels as the man approaches an ovoid vending machine and inserts a coin. Holding a single egg, he sashays on his way, a trail of musical notes implying the cockatoo's cheerful whistle. That night, awakened by an onomatopoeic “crack crack crack crack,” the characters discover eggshells on the kitchen floor and a grinning crocodile in their fridge. Their wide eyes glow against the midnight colors, and they exchange a meaningful glance before exiting their apartment. Later, they receive an invitation to the building, now the chic Blue Crocodile nightclub. Unlike some wordless artists (e.g., Mitsumasa Anno), Polhemus produces a unilayered story, and a few readings may exhaust the linear narrative. But admirers of Richard McGuire's Night Becomes Day will see a similar aesthetic at work in Polhemus's sleek digital designs, and reward them with a lengthier look. Ages 3-6. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 09/24/2007
Release date: 09/01/2007
Genre: Children's
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