Written and illustrated by Randy Cecil
Candlewick Press; $15.99
40 pp.; 978-0763629526
Review by Amy Brozio-Andrews
The old adage "you can't go home again" is turned inside out in Randy Cecil's new picture book Gator. As one of the animals of the carousel, Gator's greatest joy is being with his friends Duck and the Golden Fish and making children happy. He loves the lights, the sounds, the amusement park life. But as the years pass, attendance at the park declines until one day, the music stops, the lights go out, and the park is quiet and abandoned. After a long time, Gator climbs down from the carousel and decides to go out into the world, keenly aware of the hole in his heart.
Bravely negotiating a dark wood and trying to make friends with ducks he finds in a stream, Gator hears laughter in the distance and follows the sound -- it must be another amusement park! But when Gator doesn't see lights or hear music, he's confused. And when he finds the alligators and realizes they're real! And scary! And (thankfully) asleep, poor Gator is absolutely dejected. Until he gets recognized by a man at the zoo: "That's Gator! He was my favorite animal at the old amusement park." And Gator leads the man and his son back to the amusement park, others soon follow, the parade of people prompting a return of the lights and music, and the laughter begins again.
Cecil's book is touching -- the hole in Gator's heart (the physical manifestation of which is the hole in his body left by the carousel pole); his remembrance of the friends he left behind ("Gator hadn't known that ducks could fly. 'How amazing! I'll have to remember to tell Duck about that.'"); his desire to bring the laughter back to the amusement park. Randy Cecil's toothy, ever-optimistic protagonist is charming and winsome; you can't help but wish him well as he walks through the old amusement park gate and out into the world, worry for him as he makes his way to the zoo and finds himself in the alligators' home, and rejoice for him when he returns home to his carousel, happy to be with his friends and bringing joy to children's lives once again
The book has broad appeal across many age groups, as young children will understand the story on the simplest level while older children may understand the book on a deeper thematic level of the desire to go back to the way things used to be. Older readers though are more likely to question the probability of the "happy" ending where everything works out perfectly, no matter how unlikely (younger readers are more likely to take it at face value).
The writing style is simple and understated, allowing the themes of Cecil's work to speak volumes. The warm and soothing tone of the writing makes Gator an appropriate bedtime or naptime book. Experienced picture book-illustrator Randy Cecil's oil paint artwork is expressive and muted by earthy, monochromatic tones that let the text drive the story and provide subtle accompaniment. A variety of page layouts and designs keeps the book interesting to eye as well as ear, and while Gator may be a bittersweet picture book, Cecil has clearly worked hard to orchestrate an uplifting, if slightly hollow ending, making it a better choice for younger readers.
The IP Bookshelf
The IP Bookshelf
Pole Dancing Mama
The IP Bookshelf
Red, Green and Yellowing
All original content © 2002 - 2013 Imperfect Parent®. Imperfect Parent and Mominatrix are registered trademarks.
The views, opinions and information expressed in articles and blog posts published on imperfectparent.com and all subdomains are those of the authors alone. They do not represent the views or opinions of The Imperfect Parent or its staff, nor do they represent the views or opinions of any entity of, or affiliated with, Imperfect Parent. The Imperfect Parent is designed for entertainment purposes only and is not meant to be a substitute for medical, health, legal, or financial advice from a professional.
Reproduction of material from any of Imperfect Parent's pages without written permission is strictly prohibited.