cover image Dial-A-Croc


Mike Dumbleton. Orchard Books (NY), $14.99 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-531-05945-6

``Out in the outback, beyond the Back of Beyond,'' entrepreneurship lives. Young Vanessa traps a crocodile and gives him a choice: come with her and help her make piles of money or be turned into ``ten handbags and five pairs of shoes.'' After considering his options, the croc accompanies his captor. He then becomes the main attraction at the House of Horrors, gentle prodder to a swimming team (``If I catch them, may I eat them?'') and--thanks to his superb teeth--railway employee, ``punching tickets twenty at a time,'' all through the services of Dial-a-Croc. But, though rich and famous, the unhappy Croc longs for home. In his first children's book, Dumbleton presents a thoroughly likable, albeit unlikely, pair of professional partners. Never lacking in business acumen, Vanessa in the end demonstrates her humanity by revealing her deep affection for her scaly buddy. James's ( Prince Lachlan ) fanciful, slightly slapdash illustrations provide just the right complement to this lighthearted cautionary tale. Ages 4-7. (Aug.)