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Counting Crocodiles


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About the Author

Judy Sierra holds a Ph.D. in folklore from UCLA. She is the author of many esteemed children's books, including Nursery Tales Around the World, winner of the Aesop Prize from the American Folklore Society, and Good Night, Dinosaurs. She is also the reteller/compiler of several books of folklore for teachers and storytellers. Ms. Sierra lives in Northern California. WILL HILLENBRAND has written and illustrated many award-winning picture books, including The House That Drac Built by Judy Sierra and his own Down by the Station. He lives in Terrace Park, Ohio.


Monkey lives on an island occupied by a lone lemon tree ("She ate lemons till she cried,/ `I'm all puckered up inside!' "). Far away, on a second island, a banana tree grows. In between lies the treacherous Sillabobble Sea, where yellow crocodile eyes peer from amid the waves. It's a classic dilemma, and Monkey solves it by convincing the crocs to line up and be counted. Sierra and Hillenbrand, previously paired for The House That Drac Built, turn this Pan-Asian folktale into a cheerfully silly, "partridge in a pear tree" game conducted by an unusual menagerie. Monkey and her island-mates, a fox and a snail, gracefully cross the sea on the reptiles' backs and enumerate "seven crocs juggling clocks,/ Eight clocks in polka-dot socks,/ Nine crocs with chicken pox" and so on. The travelers reverse the count for the return trip, and the lizards happily cooperate by waving their socks, tickling the fox and dressing "like Goldilocks." Advance planning wins the day, too: Monkey and her friends have the foresight to grab not only bananas but a banana-tree sapling. Sierra composes spry limericks and couplets, while Hillenbrand creates a printmaking effect with inky black outlines and repeat images; re-readers will find witty subtleties in the already uproarious mixed-media paintings. Working with traditional materials, author and artist arrive at an altogether fresh presentation. Ages 3-7. (Sept.)

"Witty...An altogether fresh presentation."--Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Delectable...A book that is meant to be read aloud."--School Library Journal
"No ordinary counting book...Beautifully illustrated."--Child Magazine

PreS-Gr 1‘"On an island in the middle of the Sillabobble Sea lived a clever little monkey in a sour lemon tree." The monkey eats lemons every way possible, but yearns to reach a distant island on which sweet bananas grow. Between the two islands is the sea‘and interspersed in the crests of the waves are the yellow eyeballs of many, many crocodiles. When the monkey wonders aloud whether there are more crocodiles in the sea or monkeys on the shore, the crocs line up to be counted, providing access to the tasty fruit. Based on a Pan-Asian folktale, Sierra's rhyming verse is perfectly complemented by Hillenbrand's cleverly detailed illustrations executed in oil, oil pastel, watercolor, and gouache on vellum. The full-page spreads carry well for group sharing, while the rhyming verse incorporates rhythm changes in the most delectable manner, creating a book that is meant to be read aloud. The youngest listeners will be able to join in on the counting while older ones will appreciate the illustrator's visual jokes. While Paul Galdone's Monkey and the Crocodile (Clarion, 1979) remains a beloved standard, Hillenbrand's vivid colors and Sierra's rich, descriptive text ensure that readers and listeners alike will delight in Counting Crocodiles.‘Lisa Falk, Palos Verdes Library, CA

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