cover image Alligators, Alligators

Alligators, Alligators

Eve Bunting, illus. by Diane Ewen. Clarion, $19.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-328-84626-6

Roscoe’s Tours doesn’t just offer boat views of the alligators “down in the swamp,/ where the river’s warm/ and the air is damp.” The company’s operator introduces his young son Jim, both portrayed with brown skin, whose flute-playing casts a spell on the long-tailed reptiles (“The gators sway and sashay and one pirouettes./ They’re cold-blooded killers acting like pets”). He next assures the vessel’s amazed passengers, portrayed with a variety of skin tones, that the alligators aren’t trained: “The gift of this music belongs to my Jim./ Animals gather to listen to him.” But at the end of the tour, a pale-skinned passenger in a backward baseball cap snatches Jim’s flute, hoping to sell the animals it lures (“endangered or not”) to poachers—until the bond that Jim and his music have forged sees justice served in an unexpected way. Cartoon-style digital illustrations by U.K. illustrator Ewen portray the alligators as comical creatures with large, luxurious eyelashes. Lengthy, sometimes-plodding verse by Bunting (I’m a Duck) maintains a steady beat, powering this instructive, low-conflict fable briskly forward. Ages 4–8. (Aug.)