Crocodiles just wanna have fun (with apologies to Cyndi Lauper)

posted in: Catherine Rayner | 11

Solomon Crocodile is the latest book from Kate Greenaway medal winner Catherine Rayner.

Before going any further I should admit that I’m re-reading this book right now sighing with recognition; as a parent who just wants a little bit of piece and quiet, but with children rushing around thinking they’ve got the latest, greatest idea for having fun, and who just cannot understand why I don’t find their games (jumping out at me, sneaking up on me, making a racket) just as enjoyable as they do… I think this review is going to reflect my current end of half-term (holiday) weariness!

All Solomon (a rather handsome crocodile) wants to do is have fun, whether it’s splashing through mud or charging at hippos. But unfortunately for poor Solomon, those around him do not enjoy his high jinks. Rather they snap at Solomon for being a nuisance, a pest, for being trouble. Poor Solomon! All he wants to do is play.

After several failed attempts at fun Solomon hears a familiar noise… Who is bugging the dragonflies? Who has the storks in flap? Could it be that double trouble is on the horizon?

Kids will love the playfulness, the naughtiness and the idea of having a partner in crime. Adults (or at least those who’ve played their hearts out all holidays and now just want to have some time alone!) will empathise with the harried river residents Solomon sneaks up on in his quest to have fun. Everyone will love the dazzling, bold illustrations for which Rayner is well known.

Some readers may be disappointed this story doesn’t take a more upright moral stance on Solomon’s at-best-mischievous-at-worst-annoying behaviour, others might say this book is more about observation than sermonizing. Solomon may be a rather rascally little crocodile but he’s one, drawn with great charm, that has found a place in our hearts!

Inspired by Rayner’s beautiful, highly textured drawings of Solomon we wanted to create our own scaly creatures. The girls used ink and cotton buds to draw outlines of their animals (mostly snakes and dinosaurs) and then sprinkled wax crayon shavings inside their bodies.

I placed a piece of baking paper over their drawings and ironed the wax shavings, which melted creating mottled scales. The girls then filled up their animals with watercolour washes.

A final touch was using gold and silver pens to add highlights to the scales – just as is done on the very alluring front cover of Solomon Crocodile.

Our artwork complete, it was hung in our favourite gallery (aka the kitchen).

The texture is something best appreciated up close!

Whilst painting we listened to:

  • Never Smile at a Crocodile sung here by Jerry Lewis
  • Crocodiles Are Hungry by Mr. David
  • Happy Hippos Hopping by Roger Day – a song about hippos playing while the parents watch out for crocodiles.
  • Beware of the Wily Ol’ Crocodile by Tracey Eldridge
  • and yes, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun by Cyndi Lauper

  • Other fun activities that would work well alongside this book include:

  • Making a crocodile out of cardboard boxes and egg cartons, like we did here.
  • Crafting a crocodile out of a clothes peg, taking inspiration from this alligator over at Busy Bee Kids Crafts
  • Finding some mud to stomp in, or creating your own, like we did here

  • What’s your favourite crocodile book? What do you feel about picture books which don’t take a principled stand against “bad” behaviour? Should naughtiness always be commented upon if we want to use books as a way to explore appropriate behaviour with kids?

    Disclosure: Solomon Crocodile was provided to me gratis by the publisher. This review, however, reflects my own and honest opinion.

    11 Responses

    1. Damyanti

      We enjoyed Inspector Croc Investigates by Sam Lloyd, reminds me of Richard Scary humorous & fun animal characters.

      • Zoe

        Shall have to look for that one Damyanti. hey, and I like the look of your blog. For some reason didn’t know about it before.

    2. Angela

      Interesting question about bad behaviour in books. My 3-year-old loves Charlie and Lola, but I have wondered whether it encourages undesirable behaviour. On one occasion we discussed how Lola had behaved, and that it was wrong, but my daughter resolutely refused to believe that her heroine could do any wrong! This even though the books always show that Lola’s behaviour on such occasions is wrong. Of course, it could alternatively be that my daughter knew that full well and was just being contrary!!

    3. Library Mice

      Aww, I love Catherine Rayner’s books!
      Favourite crocodile book is not available here I don’t think. It’s “Je mangerais bien un enfant” by Sylviane Donnio and Dorothée de Monfried!

    4. Zoe

      Hi Angela – sorry my response is so far from your original comment! My response to “bad” behaviour in a book can vary tremendously depending on what sort of day I’ve had!

    5. ally

      In an amazing coincidence we got our first post-card in the swap today and it recommends a crocodile book!
      (Lyle, Lyle Crocodile)
      We also love Roald Dahls take on crocodiles 🙂
      Love your art – wish I was as organised

    6. Zoe

      Snap snap Ally! Crocodiles must be in the air! Glad to hear the postcards have started arriving.

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