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Sunday, June 25, 2017

Princess Cora and the Crocodile, written by Laura Amy Schlitz and illustrated by Brian Floca. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2017. $16.99 ages 7 and up

"After she studied, Princess Cora went down to the old castle prison, which the King had turned into a gym. Every day the King stood with his gold watch in his hand while Princess Cora ran in circles and skipped rope up to five hundred. "Faster! Faster! A future queen must be strong!" said the King. "Skipping rope is good for you!" Princess Cora knew that skipping was good ... "

Poor Cora! She enters the world as perfect as can be. It takes no time for her parents to decide she must be 'taught' and 'trained'. Suddenly, they are more concerned with what their daughter's impediments are than her accomplishments. So much is expected of her as heir to the throne. Her parents fill her every day with lessons, and all things meant to improve who she is.

Cora is never free to be Cora. Her nanny ensures tidiness, leading to three baths a day. Her mother oversees her reading countless meaningless books. Her father is a stern taskmaster in the gym. Cora does everything she can to please her parents. Some readers who share this book will have great empathy for Cora, knowing only too well how she is feeling. 

Until one day ... she decides she would love a dog. The idea is firmly pooh-poohed by her parents and nanny. A letter to her fairy godmother is a plea for help. A box at the foot of her bed in the morning does not hold the pet of her dreams; but it might just provide the help she needs. With the arrival of the giant green crocodile Cora begins to see a new and brighter future. The croc promises not to eat anyone so long as Cora supplies him with cream puffs, his favorite food.

He manages to take Cora's place, leaving the young princess time for solace and new learning in the woods. Alternating chapters shift venues from the turbulent royal residence to the peaceful pastures and welcoming woods. As the crocodile unleashes mayhem in the castle, Cora meanders serenely (albeit occasionally into cow poop) on her own and with no obligations. Is there a happy ending? You will have to decide for yourself. I can tell you that it involves fewer baths, a new pet, and a refreshing sense of independence for the young royal.

Laura Amy Schlitz tells a witty, captivating tale. Brian Floca creates ink, watercolor and gouache artwork sure to leave readers in stitches. Wonderful to read aloud, and then to pass to a child wanting to read it independently, it is a book that will be loved by many.

It's a charmer! And one for my 'keeper' shelf to share with Sicily and Chelsea.

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