cover image Beware of the Crocodile

Beware of the Crocodile

Martin Jenkins, illus. by Satoshi Kitamura. Candlewick, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-7636-7538-7

Wry narration from Jenkins (The Squirrels’ Busy Year) and dreamy illustrations by Kitamura (My Hand) elevate what could be a pedestrian animal exploration. Crocodiles are scary, Jenkins admits up front (“They’ve got an awful lot of... teeth”), but rather than reveling in blood and guts, he treats the way they capture their prey with charming British understatement: “Let’s just say there’s a lot of twirling and thrashing, and then things go a bit quiet.” He devotes more attention to a tender account of crocodile maternal care: “Then—very carefully—she picks up the newly hatched babies in her enormous jaws and drops them into the water nearby.” Kitamura uses a documentary style different from his usual jaunty artwork: layers of gray wash, soft colors, and dynamic strokes emphasize the croc’s massive bulk, its glittery golden eyes, and its mouthful of teeth. A graduated sapphire and rose wash conveys the limpid beauty of sea and sky, and a simple index includes instructions for using indexes. It’s not just a good crocodile reference; it’s a good introduction to reference books. Ages 5–8. (Mar.)