Alligator Sue

Overview

"All you can do is be who you is."

Suzanne Marie Sabine Chicot Thibodeaux (called Sue for short) lives on a houseboat deep in Louisiana's Atchafalaya Swamp. One lazy summer afternoon when the air grows heavier than a catfish's bath towel, a hurricane swoops Sue up -- only to drop her like a hot patate into the swamp below. Sue finds herself nose-to-snout with a queen-sized, prickly-backed mama Alligator. Luckily, Mama Coco is no ordinary gator. She invites Sue into her family ...

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Overview

"All you can do is be who you is."

Suzanne Marie Sabine Chicot Thibodeaux (called Sue for short) lives on a houseboat deep in Louisiana's Atchafalaya Swamp. One lazy summer afternoon when the air grows heavier than a catfish's bath towel, a hurricane swoops Sue up -- only to drop her like a hot patate into the swamp below. Sue finds herself nose-to-snout with a queen-sized, prickly-backed mama Alligator. Luckily, Mama Coco is no ordinary gator. She invites Sue into her family and teaches her all she knows. Sue tries hard to be an alligator; still, every once in a while, she recalls a wisp of a familiar song and begins to wonder: Who am I -- a Gator or a Girl?

How this spirited heroine claims her identity and her name -- Alligator Sue -- makes a funny, affecting, and wise tale, illustrated with irresistible joie de vivre.

After being separated from her parents by a hurricane on the bayou, a young girl is raised by an alligator and later must discover who she really is.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Wilsdorf's loose black line and watercolor wash make the girl's acceptance into the reptilian family seem plausible. . .A triumphant tale of finding one's way in the world." —Starred, Publisher's Weekly

"Doucet's text is a storyteller's delight, full of fun and with a sassy new heroine. Wilsdorf's energetic illustrations are masterfully embedded throughout the text, blowing the story along like pleasurable windy microbursts. Laissez les bon temps roulez." —Kirkus Reviews

"Doucet's ear for the Louisiana Jingo gives the story bounce and imagery abounds. . .Children will love this 'rich as pecan pralines' tale of spunky Sue." —School Library Journal

Publishers Weekly
From the author of Lapin Plays Possum comes the tale of a heroine who's half-gator, half-girl, set in Louisiana's Atchafalaya Swamp. After Sue becomes separated from her parents in a hurricane, she's raised in an alligator family ("Before long... Sue forgot to remember the days when she'd been a Girl"). She bonds with her scaly "brothers and sisters" and learns to "[snatch] at dragonflies" and "[crunch] on crawfish." The author does not shy away from the loss of Sue's human parents, but adds some comical contrasts, too, as when Sue tries to swim like her green siblings: "While her brothers and sisters could steer themselves through the water with their powerful notched tails, Sue's hind end just ended." Wilsdorf's (The Old Man Who Loved Cheese) loose black line and watercolor wash make the girl's acceptance into the reptilian family seem plausible; their interactions come across as affectionate and playful. Then one day, Sue and her alligator mother come upon the houseboat (damaged by the hurricane) where Sue was raised by her human parents, and Mama Coco tells her this is where she belongs ("It's time all you children start finding your own dens," she says). The author suffuses the text with plenty of swamp talk and Sue's father's favorite Cajun song ("O y yaie, mon coeur fait mal") becomes the book's leitmotif. When Sue discovers his old accordion in the dilapidated houseboat, his song releases her grief, and brings healing and even protection as she discovers a way to merge her two selves. A triumphant tale of finding one's own way in the world. Ages 5-8. (Aug.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
One hot summer afternoon a hurricane sweeps an ordinary girl named Sue away from her mama and daddy and tosses her into a queen-sized mama alligator's nest. Mama Coco disdains eating such a "puny li'l thing" and adopts Sue as one of her own. Sue tries hard to learn her alligator lessons, but she can't help but notice that her reptilian brothers and sisters are better designed for life in the swamp. Mad as a fire ant, Sue runs away. In a far corner of the swamp, she discovers a deserted houseboat. "This here's'where you used to live with your real mama and daddy," says Mama Coco. Sue learns that Mama Coco isn't her real mama and that she ain't no alligator, but a girl! Poor Sue is confused. If she's a girl, she can't be a gator; and if she's a gator, she can't be a girl. "All you can do is be who you is," says Mama Coco, and leaves Sue all by herself to discover just who-or what-that is. Another hurricane, a last minute rescue of Mama Coco's newest batch of eggs and this once ordinary girl has figured it out. She is Alligator Sue, a feisty and quick-witted heroine. The rich language and delightful illustrations give this story plenty of Cajun spice! This is a lengthy three-part picture book with a challenging vocabulary. Older children will enjoy reading the book on their own and younger children will love hearing it read aloud. Highly recommended. 2003, Melanie Kroupa Books/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Ages 4 to 8.
— Anita Barnes Lowen
School Library Journal
Gr 1-3-Tarzan of the jungle, make way for Sue of the Bayou! Blown off the deck of her family's houseboat as a child, Sue (short for Suzanne Marie Sabine Chicot Thibodeaux) is rescued and raised by a mother alligator. Come spring, she is tired of her "brothers'" teasing, so she returns to her now-deserted home and Mama Coco tells her that it's time to learn how to be a girl again. When another hurricane threatens, Sue uses her boat and her wits to save her gator-mother's new eggs. Although the plot is predictable, it is told with spirited fun. Doucet's ear for the Louisiana lingo gives the story bounce, and imagery abounds. Wilsdorf's lively ink-and-watercolor cartoon illustrations accentuate the regional feel and help define the characters. The protagonist's bright red dress and upwardly pointed pigtails help her character splash to life against the mossy green of the swamp. Children will love this "rich as pecan pralines" tale of spunky Sue.-Donna Cardon, Provo City Library, UT Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
While Tarzan seems to have been relegated to the back shelf in recent years, here's an updated female version with a distinctly Cajun flavor. Doucet offers the original three-part tale of Alligator Sue, an irrepressible Atchafalaya Swamp girl lost in a hurricane and brought up by a nice mama alligator. Sue lacks the tail and webbing to become a proficient gator and when it's time to leave the nest, wise Mama Coco guides her back to the ruined houseboat from which she blew in, with the words, "All you can do is be who you is." But Sue gets the last word as she discovers who that is. Doucet's text is a storyteller's delight, full of fun and with a sassy new heroine. Wilsdorf's energetic illustrations are masterfully embedded throughout the text, blowing the story along like pleasurable windy microbursts. Laissez les bon temps roulez. (Picture book. 5-8)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374302184
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 8/6/2003
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 40
  • Age range: 5 - 10 Years
  • Product dimensions: 9.26 (w) x 11.36 (h) x 0.38 (d)

Meet the Author

Sharon Arms Doucet is also the author of Lapin Plays Possum, which Kirkus Reviews called "a must-have for storytellers and storylovers alike" in a starred review. She lives in Lafayette, Louisiana.

Anne Wilsdorf is an illustrator whose previous books include Garrison Keillor's The Old Man Who Loved Cheese. She lives in Lausanne, Switzerland.

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