Playing by the book

Reviews of kids' books and the crazy, fun stuff they inspire us to do

I know it’s not Easter, but indulge me in some eggy goodness…

Posted on | July 26, 2012 | No Comments

Image: be_khe

Yes, I know it’s not Easter, but I have two lovely egg themed books that deserve to be read NOW, not only in 9 months time so please go and scrabble in the back of your kitchen cupboards to find that secret stash of chocolate I won’t tell anyone about, break off a piece and enjoy whilst I tell about these two egg-tastic picture books.

Croc and Bird by Alexis Deacon explores how very different two friends can be (so different they come from quite separate species), and yet, how they can still be the best of friends if they listen to their own hearts, and are not forced into conformity by others. If you like, it’s a reworking of the themes explored in Stellaluna by Janell Cannon, but this time with a crocodile instead of a bat.

It asks questions about who your family is. Can long lasting ties only be based on shared customs and cultures, or can friendship and love transcend such differences?

Deacon’s illustrations have a magical and somewhat mysterious air about them; indeed they reminded me of William Blake‘s paintings. Unlike Deacon’s earlier Beegu, the characters in this book are not so cute. The young bird is as ugly as they come – and this too says something about friendship and brotherly love.

Croc and Bird is not a sugary, all sweetness-and-light picture book. I think its themes and images are somewhat more challenging and thought provoking than you’ll find in many books on the kids’ bestseller list, but its is not without humour and it’s certainly full of hope.

The Fishing Trip by Béatrice Rodriguez (sold in the US under a different title – Fox and Hen Together) is also about cross-species friendship, this time between a chicken and a fox.

In this wordless story Chicken entrusts the care of her Egg to Fox (it is clear they have set up home together), whilst Chicken goes off to bring food home for them all. The fishing trip referred to in the title turns out to be a rather hair-raising, risky experience, but the real drama unfolds which Chicken arrives home to see a cracked eggshell on the table next to a frying pan. Has Fox succumbed to his species’ instinctive desire for fresh eggs (remember the story of Jemima Puddleduck?)…

This book is packed with humour and (ultimately) love. The sense of joy and determination that comes through Rodriguez’s somewhat cartoony illustrations is infectious. We’ve already returned to this book often, retelling the story to each other, and enjoying that something special about wordless picture books which allows everyone to take part, and for the stories we tell each other to evolve and and take on new life each time.

The Fishing Trip is actually the second in a series (the first story about Fox and Chicken is called The Chicken Thief). We haven’t read the first book, and didn’t feel it was at all necessary to really enjoy The Fishing Trip as a stand alone book. That said, we will be on the look out for the 1st in the series, as well as the third, available in the US under the title Rooster’s Revenge.

As with another recent post, today’s activity was also inspired by something I first saw on The Artful Parent’s blog – melted crayon on wood. I’ve had some wooden eggs (available here from Baker Ross) lingering in the back of my craft store (yes! my husband does think I have a whole shop’s worth of crafty material in our home…) for ages and wasn’t sure what to do with them. But seeing the beautiful results on The Artful Parent’s blog, I decided now was the time to crack open the eggs (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun…).

I put our wooden eggs in the oven, turned it to 120C and left them for 10 minutes (in other words, the oven started from cold). When the timer rang, I handed the warm eggs over to the girls with a whole bunch of wax crayons.

The eggs definitely had some heat in them when they first came out of the oven, so the girls held them in tea towels to begin with. After a few minutes the eggs cooled enough to hold normally, but still retained enough warmth to melt the wax crayons whilste the girls draw patterns on the egg “shells”.

Once drawing was done with, we painted over the eggs with watercolour washes, to create a wax-resist/batik effect.

Don’t they look fun?

And because these eggs come apart in two pieces, they make perfect secret storage places (for chocolate or other goodies, any time of the year!).

Whilst we decorated our eggs we listened to:

  • How D’ Ya Like Your Eggs in the Morning by Dean Martin with Helen O’Connell (you can hear it for free here on YouTube)
  • Have You Seen My Egg? by Tom Knight (indeed the wooden eggs we used would be great for making shaker eggs)
  • Gone Fishing played and sung here by Louis Armstrong and Bing Crosby


  • Other activities which might be fun to try alongside reading Croc and Bird or The Fishing Trip include:

  • Making your own fishing rod, with this great tutorial from Imagine Childhood.
  • Creating a crocodile costume out of a cardboard box and brown paper, using this tutorial from the Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories.
  • Cooking some food over an open fire – it need not be a sea monster like that in The Fishing Trip – even cooking marshmallows, or bread on a stick over an open fire is always magical.


  • What other books can you recommend about friendship across the divide, whether that be cultural, biological or other?

    Disclosure: I received both these books from their publishers. These reviews, nevertheless, reflect my own and honest opinions.

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