17 February 2018

Princess Cora and the Crocodile

Princess Cora and the Crocodile
Laura Amy Schlitz
Illustrated by Brian Floca
Candlewick Press

Princess Cora is overwhelmed.  Her parents love her so much and want her to be successful, so they fill her day with the things that are most important to being an excellent princess and queen - taking baths (a queen must be tidy), studying (a queen must be intelligent) and physical activity (a queen must be strong).  Cora often tries to suggest to them that they're over doing it, but they don't listen.  One day, Cora has had enough and she writes her fairy godmother a letter, asking for help in the form of a pet.  Cora wants a dog, but her fairy godmother has other plans.  She sends Cora a crocodile, and a naughty crocodile at that.  Hilarity ensues, and eventually (after a little gnawing from a crocodile dressed like a princess) the king, the queen and the nanny all realized that Cora does need a bit of a break.
This is a great book with a kind of sad twist to it.  At first, none of the adults even notice that it's not Cora but a crocodile - they are all to wrapped up in "worrying what might be wrong with her". And every minute of every day is planned around training for Cora by the time she is seven years old.  I enjoyed the story when I first read it for it's absurdity and silliness, but as I think about it more, I can't help but see some parallels in the way we currently raise and educate our children.
Are Schlitz and Floca trying to subtly tell us something?  I recently read an article about the life lessons found in Chinese children's literature vs. children's literature in the United States, and it got me thinking about how what we read shapes our beliefs and thoughts.  I can't help but wonder who will benefit more from reading this book - children who might learn that it's OK to play and to ask adults for what we need, or adults who might need to be reminded that kids need to be kids.
In any case, the book is absolutely worth the time for readers of any age.

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