cover image Counting Crocodiles

Counting Crocodiles

Judy Sierra. Harcourt Children's Books, $17 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-15-200192-6

Monkey lives on an island occupied by a lone lemon tree (""She ate lemons till she cried,/ `I'm all puckered up inside!' ""). Far away, on a second island, a banana tree grows. In between lies the treacherous Sillabobble Sea, where yellow crocodile eyes peer from amid the waves. It's a classic dilemma, and Monkey solves it by convincing the crocs to line up and be counted. Sierra and Hillenbrand, previously paired for The House That Drac Built, turn this Pan-Asian folktale into a cheerfully silly, ""partridge in a pear tree"" game conducted by an unusual menagerie. Monkey and her island-mates, a fox and a snail, gracefully cross the sea on the reptiles' backs and enumerate ""seven crocs juggling clocks,/ Eight clocks in polka-dot socks,/ Nine crocs with chicken pox"" and so on. The travelers reverse the count for the return trip, and the lizards happily cooperate by waving their socks, tickling the fox and dressing ""like Goldilocks."" Advance planning wins the day, too: Monkey and her friends have the foresight to grab not only bananas but a banana-tree sapling. Sierra composes spry limericks and couplets, while Hillenbrand creates a printmaking effect with inky black outlines and repeat images; re-readers will find witty subtleties in the already uproarious mixed-media paintings. Working with traditional materials, author and artist arrive at an altogether fresh presentation. Ages 3-7. (Sept.)