the quiet crocodile goes to the beach

Your first experience with any book is with its cover, and that often makes all the difference in whether you pick it up. The proverb, “Don’t judge a book by its cover” was for budding literary snob 12-year-old me, not the adult who likes dragons and spaceships and beautiful-picture-books-that-could-double-as-permanent-coffee-table-residents. Natacha Andriamirado and Delphine Renon’s The Quiet Crocodile Goes to the Beach is firmly in the latter category, by the way. And it is funny and whimsical too – and therefore on its way to being a rare parent AND child favorite.

the quiet crocodile goes to the beach by natacha andriamirado and delphine renon book cover
Fossil the quiet crocodile loves to go to the beach with his friends. Fippo the Hippo, Sonny the Bunny, Ryan the Lion, and all the rest jump right in and splash about in the waves while Fossil watches from the shore. Could it be that Fossil is scared of the water? What happens when Fossil finally joins them? Is he really as quiet as he seems? Readers can find, name, and count all of Fossil's boisterous friends, as well as the rings, racquets, fishing nets, and shells hidden in the delightful drawings.

Fossil’s (the quiet crocodile from the book title) friends cavort and enjoy the beach in summertime, and Fossil appears to be joining in, but he’s not really – because he’s scared of the water (a funny predicament for a crocodile!). Eventually, those friends find out and encourage him to overcome his fear(s), leading to even more beach fun. This book, with its recurring characters on each page, is filled with details that will invite re-read after re-read.

While simple on its face, this story taps into two very common childhood fears – of water and/or swimming, and of what your friends will think of your fears. The fear of water is approached very straightforwardly, which has its pluses and minuses, but the anthropomorphism of the animal characters gives it a buffer from reality (I’m imagining conversations that go, “The crocodile is scared of swimming! Have you ever been scared of the water?”) that should work for most. Apprehension at what your friends will think if they know your fears/see you vulnerable is not addressed directly – an addition that I think would have strengthened the book.

A “hidden” element is that of the lineup of all of the crocodile’s friends’ names, and the type of animal they are in the endpapers. There are also, in each spread, other concealed elements for kids to find, à la Richard Scarry’s work (though not quite as busy). Reading this book aloud together could be a fun way to prompt kids to identify colors, shapes, animal types, and common beach-going equipment, and/or to go through the book trying to find a specific friend of Fossil’s on each page. It repeats the same cast as the first in this series (The Quiet Crocodile), so there is that continuity too, if you happen to have both books.

Renon’s artwork is precise, colorful, and sure to appeal to those who appreciate a perfectly executed right angle/check pattern/stippled shadow. Her illustrations feature colored pencil and pen drawings that excel in delineating texture. Added together with the fine details mentioned above, and this is a very handsome book – one that wouldn’t be out of place in the most discriminating of homes.

In all, The Quiet Crocodile Goes to the Beach is a seasonally appropriate and beautifully-illustrated and -detailed picture book for the very young (ages 2-4).

Recommended for: fans of picture books about overcoming fears, especially fear of the water (such as Lottie and Walter), families with very young children who are planning or have just returned from beach trips, and anyone with an eye for picture book design.

Fine print: I received a finished copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration. I did not receive any compensation for this post.

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