Princess Cora and the Crocodile

cora cover

Princess Cora and the Crocodile

By Laura Amy Schlitz, Illustrated by Brian Floca


Published by: Candlewick (March 28, 2017)

Available in: hardcover, audible

At the time of this review this was a standalone book.



Princess Cora and the Crocodile is a lovely chapter book that masquerades as an elegant, long picture book. Truly, it could work as either, with the end result being children who are utterly delighted.

Newberry Medal winner Laura Amy Schlitz writes a contemporary tale based on historical fantasy and fairy tales. The text is deft, spare, hilarious, and told with a firmly modern sensibility that keeps it from feeling like a tired old story. To wit: “The crocodile peered out from behind his claws. ‘This is what I’m telling you,’ he said.”

Like fairy tales of old, the story powers through actions and words that are usually considered too violent or inappropriate. Which makes the story smile-cracking funny. The crocodile, in trying to help the princess, torments the nanny, locks up the queen, and bites the king’s bum, finding it “the wrong kind of chewy.”

Meanwhile, the princess, while asking for help, finds a way to fix everything herself. She’s kind and lovable and naïve and, in the end, one smart cookie. Or cream puff, as used to such sweet comedy in the plot.

Not to be overshadowed by the text, Caldecott Medal winner Brian Floca’s subtle and imaginative four-color illustrations slide through every page. It’s a visual enchantment.

What do you say teachers, parents and writers? Use the comment below and let’s chat….



Marty McGuire

Marty cover

Marty McGuire

By Kate Messner and Brian Floca, Illustrated by Brian Flocca


Published by: Scholastic Paperbacks (May 1, 2011)

Available in: paperback, library binding, audible audio, preloaded digital audio player, Kindle, NOOK

At the time of this review there were two books in the Marty McGuire series, with the third expected in April 2015.



Marty McGuire is a smart, brave, confident girl who’d rather wade for frogs than don a tiara, and for that any tomboy will love her.

Perfect for second and third grade readers, this book starts in a comfortable chapter-book zone, complete with all the usual suspects. There’s a kind but quirky teacher who endlessly shakes maracas. A bossy, prissy classmate is antagonistic and annoying from the start. A friend from the previous school year has defected her friendship, and Marty finds this a mystery and galling. There’s a play at school that provides the framework for the book’s plot. In the end, Marty has to grow, compromise and show some spunk.

All this is perfectly acceptable and palatable. Kids like the familiar, and this story feels familiar for a good bit of the first half. But about halfway through, an inventive, unique verve takes over. Marty becomes a truly original character who takes bold chances and shows her iconoclastic ways. As a character, she starts slow, but she blooms in the end.

The simple but quite physical and expressive illustrations enhance the story. They don’t just show moments or scenes, they show emotions and movement.

The story also has a fair amount of animal behavior, habitat and conservation information, all slipped in with ease and just enough science. That’s a nice extra touch.

And I gotta admit, the name “Marty” for a brave, confident girl is pretty fabulous. Just sayin’.

What do you say teachers, parents and writers? Use the comment below and let’s chat….