Laura Amy Schlitz
I recently came across Princess Cora and the Crocodile by Laura Amy Schlitz in my search for easy chapter books for my daughter. She is in first grade and loves reading, but is rather picky about content. I needed something that would appeal to a girl, but something with a sense of humor; that was challenging, but not too long or tedious. This was the perfect fit.
The story begins with a king and queen who have a baby they are convinced is perfect. But, as many parents do, they begin to worry about everything she will need to be prepared to rule one day and, as many parents do, they overdo it.
As the princess grows up, she is relentlessly bathed, tutored, and trained. Her parents want her to be tidy, smart, and strong. The princess grows resentful but, unlike some Disney version of the same predicament, she “wanted her parents to be happy.” She had negative thoughts toward them but these thoughts “scared her.” This is not just another story about a child who has to teach her parents how to behave. This is a story of a child who longs to play and be free and have a pet dog. So, as distraught princesses are apt to do, she writes her fairy godmother about her plight.
The next morning, the gift of a new pet crocodile is waiting for her by her bed. The crocodile tells her he’s here to rescue her from her awful parents. “My parents aren’t awful,” Cora corrects the crocodile. She instructs him that she doesn’t want anyone harmed, she just wants a day off. So, the crocodile pretends to be her so she can be free for a day.
Hilarity ensues when the pair dress the crocodile to look like the princess.
The nanny tries to give the crocodile Cora’s bath, the queen tries to teach the crocodile Cora’s lesson, and the king tries to make the crocodile exercise. They are each met by a troublesome crocodile who chases and chews on each one. The Princess, meanwhile, gets to experience the joys of climbing trees, picking and eating strawberries, building a fort in the woods, and wading in a creek. She picks flowers and even steps in a cow pie, but this only makes her braver.
When the princess returns to the castle at the end of her outdoor adventure, she hears from the crocodile what has happened in her absence. She is angry with him, but is patient and kind, and assumes the responsibility of setting everything right with the nanny, the queen, and the king. Her experience that day gives her the courage to speak up for herself and let her parents know that she does not want life to continue as it was. Her parents reluctantly agree, but she does have several good points, and they’d much rather she had a pet dog than a crocodile.
I love that Cora is a sweet girl. She has many good character qualities that come through, even in this brief story. I love that the story is comedic and entertaining, but also has substance. I love that the child has a problem that isn’t all about the parents being wrong; she has to learn to speak up and be brave. Despite the mentions of rear ends in this book which I’ve never found necessary, I enjoyed the humor. And I love that the illustrations are humorous while still being detailed and beautiful.
My daughter and I loved this book, and I even bought her a copy of her own with an inscription inside to remind her that this was her first ever chapter book. It was a great place to start.