Solomon Crocodile by Catherine Rayner is not a new publication, (2011) but I just discovered it and it is simply wonderful!
Solomon is an energetic, playful crocodile. His personality is portrayed as a young crocodile because of his playfulness. There is not any feeling of harshness or fright in this story. It is simply a young animal amongst its habitat with older animals that do not want to play. None of the other animals are afraid of him as a crocodile. This is a very important point because the animals in this story are characterized with annoyance or just not interested in Solomon's rambunctious attitude.
The artwork has fabulous silkscreened images. You can find out about Catherine's Silkscreen process, here. And she also has on her website a video that takes you to youtube and shows how to make art with the silkscreen process, here.
My husband does this silkscreen process every day at his job at Graphics Output, here. This is a commercial sign, decals, and lots of other types of advertising company. Some of our conversations can be so fun when we are discussing art and process, and how many different ways there are to make art. It's simply a matter of infinity really.
There is fantastic texture in Catherine's artwork. As you can see in the above picture she has the ink and silkscreened Solomon in the foreground and an opaque swampy background. These two, foreground and background work so well together. Solomon POPS! on the more caliginous background. I am in love with the darker, inky outline of Solomon, the big white eye with the black pupil and those remarkable craggy teeth. It also appears that watercolor has been used to splatter and enhance the illustrations.
One spread that is a favorite is where Solomon "splats and slops through the mud to make the frogs jump."
My second favorite spread in where Solomon charges the biggest hippo. Here you can tell, visually, that Solomon is a young, smaller crocodile than you first suspected. And of course the hippo is having none of Solomon's perplexing nonsense.
Of course the absolute best spread is the last one when you see Solomon's new playmate and your imagination goes wild wondering about all the "DOUBLE TROUBLE," they'll get themselves into.
I highly recommend Solomon Crocodile to parents, teachers and other librarians. I'll use it in Storytime for preschoolers and with students up to Third Grade. This title will work with a bigger group and one-on-one with a child.
For Early Literacy it has Print Awareness with some words bolder and upper case to be able to point out the print. It definitely has Print Motivation with anticipation of Solomon getting into trouble and the appeal of Solomon because, well, he's a crocodile. Kids love scary animals in a non-scary setting. For Vocabulary, I see bulrushes as the best word that might be a new word for most students. But you could introduce new words for some of the familiar words, for example, how many words or phrases can you come up for the word 'pest'? There is nuisance, pain, bug, and trouble in the book, but I bet the students can come up with more like bother, pill, drag, or downer. For Letter Knowledge, there are a lot of alliteration combinations and S will be a popular letter and sound to practice with this title. Phonological Awareness shows up with the term "DOUBLE TROUBLE". It will be fun to come up with more rhymes that describe two animals either getting into trouble or being troubled. Dragonfly - cry; Frog fell in the bog, The Stork said put in a cork, and the hippo said zippo your lippo! You can't miss an opportunity to point out that crocodile smile.
And the last skill, Narrative Skills for Solomon Crocodile will be quite gratifying because children will be able to retell the story with how this story is laid out. He bothers the frogs, dragonflies, storks, and hippos; he gets in trouble and then he hears somebody else bothering the frogs, dragonflies, storks, and hippos and then he meets his new playmate and now the children can be encouraged to think about what happens next and this has taken us to an open-ended story that draws children in and makes them a teller of the story and thus - Viola! that child or children are excited about books and reading, character and story development, and will want to read more. That is what any librarian, teacher, or parent wants for a child: TO LOVE READING! and to be enthusiastic about regaling others with this story.
Find out more about Catherine Rayner and her books and artwork at her website, here.