Solomon Crocodile by Catherine Rayner, published by MacMillan
One of the many rewarding aspects of reading to our daughter is the enjoyment from experiencing the breadth of immense artistic talent on show in her picturebooks. Catherine Rayner is, in our view, one of the most talented artists working in the picturebook business. In our earlier review of Norris the Bear Who Shared, we spoke of how that book was both a wonder to behold (and also the inspiration for a bedtime lullaby tribute to the "plorringe" fruit).
Solomon Crocodile is certainly beautifully illustrated, but first and foremost it's a frenzy of fun. Solomon, a fun-loving mischievous crocodile, is causing a reptilian rumpus in the jungle. His splashing, charging and plunging in the water "shakes the bulrushes", "bugs the dragonflies" and "gets the storks in a flap".
Catherine Rayner's clever, playful language also makes this a very fun book to read aloud: "Solomon splats and slops through the mud". She is also a brilliant storyteller, bringing to life characters from nature who seem to storm from the page.
Our toddler loves when the "biggest hippo in the river" ROARS at Solomon and tells him, as the other animals have before him, that he's "nothing but trouble".
Yet perhaps what is most satisfying and unexpected about this book is how the story concludes. It would have been in keeping with the norm for picturebooks that there would be a moral to the story, and most likely this would have been that Solomon would learn the value of compromise, reconciliation and peace, curb his behaviour and learn to live in harmony.
And although that's a valuable aspiration, worthy of promotion, it's refreshingly not how the story ends. Instead, just as Solomon contemplates his ostricisation, he hears "something" making the frogs jump and "something" disturbing the tranquility of the river. What is this "something" causing the sort of mayhem that Solomon could only aspire to?
All is revealed in the dramatic final spread, which announces that it's "Double Trouble": an even bigger, naughtier crocodile to join Solomon in his rambunctious pursuits!