Gator

Overview

Lonely for laughter, a carousel animal goes on a courageous journey in Randy Cecil’s delightful new picture book.

Gator loves everything about being a carousel animal — the flashing lights, the calliope music, and most of all, the laughter. But day by day, week by week, fewer and fewer people come to the amusement park, until one day, no one comes at all. And so begins an extraordinary odyssey,as Gator leaves behind the only life he’s ever known and sets off through some deep, ...

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Overview

Lonely for laughter, a carousel animal goes on a courageous journey in Randy Cecil’s delightful new picture book.

Gator loves everything about being a carousel animal — the flashing lights, the calliope music, and most of all, the laughter. But day by day, week by week, fewer and fewer people come to the amusement park, until one day, no one comes at all. And so begins an extraordinary odyssey,as Gator leaves behind the only life he’s ever known and sets off through some deep, dark woods to a place with REAL alligators — and a wonderful, familiar sound. Illustrator Randy Cecil puts on his author’s hat for this moving story of a modest carousel alligator who finds what he’s looking for and becomes a hero along the way.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Gator, who is a grinning green merry-go-round fixture and not an actual reptile, recalls a time when the amusement park was popular with children. Gradually, crowds stop coming, and the hurdy-gurdy days fade. Gator imagines the ride operating and "the wind on his face. But it was only a spider attaching its web to his snout." Somehow (not shown in the pictures) Gator detaches from his carousel pole, leaving a "hole in his heart." Waddling like a penguin, he follows the sound of laughter to a zoo, where his painted-on saddle distinguishes him from the (mostly) sleeping alligators. Cecil's (We've All Got Bellybuttons!) nostalgic tale echoes many classic books. Like the Velveteen Rabbit, Gator isn't real enough to blend with living creatures; like Virginia Lee Burton's Little House, he is old-fashioned but sturdy. His quest, like theirs, ends with a lucky break: a boy hears Gator sniffling, and the boy's father recognizes Gator, leading to a revival of the decrepit carousel. Soon "everything was just the way it used to be." Cecil's shadowy, sepia-tinted oil paintings recall the art for Fred Marcellino's I, Crocodile, but attached to a rather maudlin story. Even if Gator's desire to reverse time is understandable, the wishful conclusion feels false rather than magical. Ages 3-5. (Mar.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz
Gator's happy life as a carousel animal ends when the amusement park closes. He decides he must leave to find another place of laughter. In a zoo, he sees other real alligators, but they are scary rather than friendly. He is sad and depressed. But then he is recognized by a father who used to ride him when a boy. The man's son wants to go to the park to ride Gator as his father did. Inspired, Gator starts back to the park, followed by more and more people. The calliope plays again, the carousel lights up, and Gator climbs back to his pole that symbolically fills the hole in his heart, so the boy and the others can ride again. Somehow we do not question the plausibility of the happy ending. The low-key, double-page, oil-painted scenes and occasional vignettes tell the visual tale with overarching sentimentality. There is a greenish-golden cast to everything, even the sleeping lions in the zoo with legs pointed skyward. Jaunty Gator is a charmer; the stylized animals and people who follow him are consistent with the simple story. Ornate oval frames for the few lines of text add to the atmosphere of make-believe.
School Library Journal

Gr 1–3
Gator used to be a popular carousel animal, but that was before the amusement park closed. Now, the happy laughter of the children has faded to only a memory. Tired of waiting for the good times to return, he leaves the park, but with a hole in his heart where the pole used to be. After wandering aimlessly in the forest, he follows the sounds of laughter with the hope of finding another amusement park. But to his sorrow, he finds only a zoo. In his disappointment, he sits on a bench where he is recognized by a passing man. Soon everyone follows Gator back to the old park, where the flashing lights come on and the calliope is playing again. As he reclaims his place on the carousel, the hole in his heart disappears. The text, placed on the top or bottom of the page and often appearing in a gilded oval frame, is unremarkable. Cecil's quirky illustrations include oblong-headed humans and have sufficient detail to determine the character's emotions. The hole in Gator's chest makes logical sense, but is a tad disturbing. It is the oil-paint illustrations that provide the story's overall mood. The muted, flat colors including gold, green, and gray give even the happy scenes a somber feeling. This pervasive mood tends to drag the whole story down. Cecil's take on a familiar theme is different but not completely effective.
—Catherine CallegariCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Kirkus Reviews
Sketchy on internal logic but rich in feeling, this tale features a carved animal who takes off on a journey of discovery after his carousel goes dark and neglected. Missing the laughter and action of years past, Croc at last shakes off the dust, and, despite a "hole in his heart where the pole had been," leaves the abandoned amusement park. After walking through a deep, dark forest he comes upon a zoo, and attracts an intrigued young visitor who follows him home. By the time Croc arrives, he's at the head of an entire procession of zoo-goers whose presence instantly makes the carousel mysteriously come back to life. Illustrated with soft-textured scenes featuring a small, rather timorous looking crocodile sporting a derby, a saddle and a visible hole through his middle, this mini-adventure will leave readers warmed, if not entirely convinced. (Picture book. 6-8)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780763629526
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Publication date: 3/13/2007
  • Pages: 40
  • Sales rank: 1,059,357
  • Age range: 3 - 7 Years
  • Product dimensions: 9.19 (w) x 10.94 (h) x 0.37 (d)

Meet the Author

Randy Cecil has illustrated more than half a dozen books for children, including AND HERE'S TO YOU!, MY FATHER THE DOG, and WE'VE ALL GOT BELLYBUTTONS! He lives in Houston, Texas, where he also grew up.
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