cover image ALLIGATOR SUE


Sharon Arms Doucet, , illus. by Anne Wilsdorf. . FSG/Kroupa, $17 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-374-30218-4

From the author of Lapin Plays Possum comes the tale of a heroine who's half-gator, half-girl, set in Louisiana's Atchafalaya Swamp. After Sue becomes separated from her parents in a hurricane, she's raised in an alligator family ("Before long... Sue forgot to remember the days when she'd been a Girl"). She bonds with her scaly "brothers and sisters" and learns to "[snatch] at dragonflies" and "[crunch] on crawfish." The author does not shy away from the loss of Sue's human parents, but adds some comical contrasts, too, as when Sue tries to swim like her green siblings: "While her brothers and sisters could steer themselves through the water with their powerful notched tails, Sue's hind end just ended." Wilsdorf's (The Old Man Who Loved Cheese) loose black line and watercolor wash make the girl's acceptance into the reptilian family seem plausible; their interactions come across as affectionate and playful. Then one day, Sue and her alligator mother come upon the houseboat (damaged by the hurricane) where Sue was raised by her human parents, and Mama Coco tells her this is where she belongs ("It's time all you children start finding your own dens," she says). The author suffuses the text with plenty of swamp talk and Sue's father's favorite Cajun song ("O yé yaie, mon coeur fait mal") becomes the book's leitmotif. When Sue discovers his old accordion in the dilapidated houseboat, his song releases her grief, and brings healing and even protection as she discovers a way to merge her two selves. A triumphant tale of finding one's own way in the world. Ages 5-8. (Aug.)