Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Crocodiles, Firecrackers, and Orphanages in Africa -- Ahhh... Storytelling.

The Enormous Crocodile
by Roald Dahl Pictures by Quentin Blake
Weekly Reader Children's Book Club Edition
Alfred A. Knopf, 1978

Once when I was young, probably over some holiday weekend, my family stayed overnight at my aunt and uncle's house. It turned into a whole slumber party with my cousin Stacy and her sister Kelly, my brother Jason, my sister Lori and I'm pretty sure there were other cousins there too. I don't know what the occasion was but I do recall Stacy was the oldest and deemed the storyteller. She told us a story about a mean old crocodile who was determined to get rid of some loud pesky kids who lived in an orphanage in Africa because they were always making noise during his afternoon nap. There were firecrackers and other schemes done by the Crocodile every last one failing miserably. In the end, the kids outsmart the mean old crocodile and he's blown up by his own firecrackers all the way to the sun and back.

Years later, as an adult I retold her story and it was different every time. Children I babysat loved the story and asked for it every time I was there at bedtime. Only a few years ago, did I discover that Stacy didn't come up with this story all on her own. She was telling us a heavily modified version of Roald Dahl's The Enormous Crocodile. The essence was the same, but the details quite different. The one part that didn't change was the way the Crocodile was sent flying so far and so high that he hit the sun.

This week I'm doing some kid-sitting again, and we revisited the story Tommy remembered from an earlier babysitting visit. And this time I brought out the original book and we've been having fun reading this one together. Dahl's book has a lot of humor in it. The language is delightful. Blake's pictures are terrific. I love how he captures the scene but adds little details to really show the spirit of the Crocodile, for example.

This book is longer than some "picture books" but it's totally worth the effort. It's probably good I never knew the original story all those years or I would have had a hard time adapting it for my own bedtime story purposes. It's too great in its original state. Still, I thank Stacy for introducing me to it and all the kiddos over the years who kept wanting to hear it until I stumbled upon this copy and fell in love.


rachelzana said...

We love this book!

Carm said...

The pictures are just soooo funny!

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