Friday, May 29, 2020

Review - AAAlligator!

by Judith Henderson
illustrated by Andrea Stegmaier
Date: 2020
Publisher: Kids Can Press
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 40
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

When a hungry alligator moves to their town, the residents want him out . . . until they get to know him (and learn what he's actually hungry for!). A timely tale about empathy, acceptance and a community's response to injustice.

Though he's scared at first, a boy who encounters an alligator in the woods soon realizes that all the alligator wants is companionship --- and leftovers --- and the two become good friends. But the mayor of the boy's town simply won't allow it. He even makes an official proclamation, "NO ALLIGATORS! Blah, blah, blah." The townspeople agree with the mayor. At first. But once they see how kind and helpful the alligator is (and how nice it is to have someone to eat all their leftovers!), they decide the alligator should be allowed to stay. They help the alligator avoid the mayor, for a while. But it's becoming harder to find a place for him to hide. Can they all come together and find a way to keep the alligator in their town?

Judith Henderson's funny, whimsical and heartwarming picture book tale offers a playful way to engage children with issues of injustice and civil disobedience. In this timely story, a boy and then an entire community move beyond their fear of the "other" and respond with acceptance; then they movingly take it a step further to make change. It highlights the positive character education attributes of empathy, kindness, caring and courage. Andrea Stegmaier's illustrations include loads of charming details that are not in the text, making them a perfect complement to the story's warm and quirky style. This is a terrific book for lessons on communities and social justice.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

Here's yet another book that minimizes the dangers of wild animals. It might be appropriate for kids in northern latitudes, but it could be problematic for kids in alligator country.

A boy encounters an alligator in the woods, saves it, and eventually befriends it. But the mayor decrees that no alligators are allowed. The townspeople disobey the orders, feed the alligator their leftovers, and everyone is happy. (Except for the mayor; the text implies that he gets eaten, although the pictures suggest something else.)

I don't find books like this funny. I worry that kids will get the wrong idea about wild animals, especially in cases like this where the animal isn't anthropomorphized very much. The townspeople weren't being bigots when they worried about an alligator in their village; they were simply being logical.

The illustrations are okay, and the text is well written. Some kids will probably enjoy this one. But I don't think I'd recommend it to anyone who lives in a place where there's even a remote chance of an alligator turning up in the backyard; the consequences of a child thinking an alligator is a friendly pet could be disastrous.

Thank you to NetGalley and Kids Can Press for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 2/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 4/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.67 out of 5

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