Posted in Review

Children’s Picture Book Review: The Crocodile Who Didn’t Like Water

Today I shall be reviewing The Crocodile Who Didn’t Like Water by Gemma Merino.

My Rating:    
Son’s Rating: 

The debut book by award-winning Gemma Merino is about an isolated crocodile and his attempts at fitting in with his brothers and sisters. At thirty-two pages long, what I find admirable is that this crocodile tries his hardest to fit in, with no pushing or prodding from his mum or friends. He is courageous and considerate and is fed up of being left out, due to his fear of water. I can’t fault anything with him, he is pretty much a vulnerable yet loveable character. Though he looks like his siblings, something is not quite right, as crocodiles surely enjoy the water, right?

Much like the story of The Ugly Duckling, except without the bullying, I feel this Macmillan published book is intended for the three to five year age market for the words are few, and the story is easy to read.

The author, in my opinion, achieved the writing and visual goals designed for the age range. Using a splatterdash effect for illustrations, Gemma has kept each visual to a minimum which I feel gives the story that bit of extra warmth and charm to it because it fits in with the lonely feelings of the crocodile. I also quite liked the fact there were a couple of images of his mummy, and it was only the bottom half of her. Similarly, it’s reminiscent to Tom and Jerry, the early years, where there was a presence of an adult yet the face was never shown, I find it helps the target audience engage and connect that little bit further.

Another warmth to this story were the siblings.  Though they acted hive-like not one of them were mean to the crocodile.  Some tried to help at times, but there was never any instances of sibling rivalry which you find in children’s stories. I found that aspect another reason why it stands out against similar books; there is no nastiness, just fear, honesty, bravery and a strong desire to change.

Reading this to my eldest for the first time, his reaction was to keep re-reading it immediately, he loved it that much. I know when I’m onto a good story for him, because of this behaviour. If I had let him get his way, that would have been a solid three-hour reading session! I found it remarkably enjoyable to read and, like my son, I also wanted more re-reads.

Illustrations vary from singles on one page, with split images on others to a full double-page spread depending on the impact of the narrative.  The prose flows smoothly, with no clunky or misplaced words and the mixture of visuals and text blend well together using space appropriately.

The crocodile manages to express thoughts and feelings amazingly without speech. I find this to be a fantastic achievement.  To me, it means, as a reader, I can sit and talk freely with my son about what the crocodile might say to his siblings, and their subsequent reactions as the story progresses.  That gives me something extra to do with my son, other than reading and accepting everything at face value.  I believe this activity will help encourage him to opinionate now and later on in life.

Every time we sat with this book, we kept finding little extra hidden treasures, especially with the illustrations and these bonuses made the book that bit more exciting over some of its competitors. I can see why it won the Macmillan Prize for Illustration 2011 as well as many other accolades in the years since its release.

Reading a book like this encourages and inspires me to continue my dream of publishing a children’s picture book. On the surface, it looks like such a natural idea, one of those “Oh why didn’t I think of that?” thoughts spring to mind.

Comments from my son:

“I like the words and the rubber ring.”
“My favourite bit is when he climbs a tree.”

If you liked this read, try the next book by Gemma Merino “The Cow That Climbed A Tree.




This review is my first, as any reviewer will tell you, do your homework, and the results will pay off, so homework is what I did. If you feel I’ve missed something, please let me know. I’ve got notes upon notes of what to put in and leave out. Likewise, if it’s too long or too short do let me know. I’m refining this skill little by little every day.


Posted in Review

Naming & Shaming – My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish, The Fintastic Fish-Sitter

Next on the unfortunate pile is My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish The Fintastic Fish-Sitter by Mo O’Hara and Marek Jagucki.

Zombie Goldfish comes from a successful series adored by children of all ages. This story focuses on Pradeep’s sister, Sami, babysitting a zombie goldfish called Frankie.

My first gripe is a spelling error early on. Sorry but it’s “Brussels”, not “Brussells”, only one “L” is required.  Even my spell checker came up with an error flag just as I typed it in.  If you’re wanting to publish, it does pay to proofread!


I was expecting the story to feature a zombie type scenario, but it fell a bit flat when it was brushed off in two words essentially. Overall I felt the book to be somewhat confusing, it’s meant to be about the babysitter, going off the title but felt like a Tom and Jerry story. Frankie did nothing to prove to the reader why he is the lead in the book and though Fang, the cute but evil vampire kitten, was featured, there was nothing remotely vampirish about him. I suspect the rest of the series will explain more. As a stand-alone book, it was OK, but if you’re going to read this make sure you have the rest of the series amongst your collection.

Like my previous post, this book was also published by Macmillan.  It is purely coincidental that I found fault with two of their books on the same day.  Then again I have hundreds of picture books at home, and that publishing house does tend to crop up a lot.


Posted in Review

Naming & Shaming: The Toucan Brothers

I started a new area on my blog a while ago, naming and shaming children’s picture books, as I felt some need improvement and some just need throwing in the bin altogether.  I realise authors and illustrators do pour a lot of hours and effort into creating something magical and enjoyable for children.  It frustrates me to no end that when I see a book with fundamental English mistakes – either spelling or grammar or even morals that are completely wrong, I think how did that get all the way from an agent to a publishing house, printed and sold with these glaring errors?

I read to my children all the time.  With it being my son’s birthday recently he was given 10 new picture books, which were hidden all over the house and he had to find them, he absolutely loved searching.  Today I read him one of his new books and the errors were so obvious it pained me to read it all the way to the end.  So I’m giving my review, I guess to enlighten you potential authors that you need a lot of proofreaders otherwise your work will come across as sloppy!

The Toucan Brothers by Tor Freeman

Based on a Mario Brothers mixed with Ghostbusters type story and setting, Sammy and Paul are the town’s best plumbers and general tradesmen. The story is set in rhyme, and the illustrations left my son giggling endlessly, he wanted to hear the story immediately again – the writer in me was fuming by the end, unfortunately!

The first page which first caught my eye was the slogan on the side of the van “No drip too big, no pipe too small”.  Also, note the name of the brothers – Sammy and Paul.


Yet the last line on the next page, to me, felt like a massive mistake with the text and the above picture. It reads “No job too big, no pipe too small”.  It’s a complete mismatch.  Proofreading would have easily fixed this. Frustration level increased a notch.


I’m all for not talking down to children, treat them with intelligence and they’ll shine on through.  The next series of errors would have put me at a failure level on my writing courses. If only Tor Freeman had asked for proofreaders and stuck to a basic writing concept – CONSISTENCY! It really is key!

Sammy has now become Sam.  This changed back to Sammy when the sentence needed that extra syllable.


And Paul has become Paulie.  This really left me seeing red! I had to go back to the beginning to double check I hadn’t read it wrong initially.


That’s everything I wanted to share, credit for a colourful and visual book Tor Freeman, but the errors are unjustifiably there.  As an author trying to find an agent and ultimately a publisher it astonishes me that this story was accepted by a very successful publishing house, Macmillan.


Posted in project, writing

Pay To Publish?

There’s pretty much always a way to get your manuscript published, either by finding an agent, going directly to a publisher or crowdfunding. If you want it that bad, you’ll find the right way for you.

A few weeks ago I submitted my work to a publisher, without doing full homework on it and today it’s come full circle on me. I will tell you the name to help others. Austin Macauley.

After sending my work off, I got an email saying they were interested but that the next step would to get it approved by the board of editors and they’d be in touch. So far, responses to project one have been a no, all very nice and professional about it, some provided useful web links etc. As soon as I received a potential yes I went to look at the publisher further to see what the next steps will be.

They basically want money from me in order to publish. Today I received a contract through the post which I will not sign. I don’t have £2500 to go down this route and even if I did I would not pay to publish.

Would you?

Posted in progress, project, writing

Project Three – Second Draft

Tuesdays are typically my Starbucks-Writing day.  Today I didn’t feel like going, whether it’s the weather – the lack of any sort of cold anywhere, or my ideas didn’t feel like being typed out with the help of a Latte, I’ll never know.  Instead, I ran a few errands and was home before 10am.  For the first time in days, I opened up Project Three and edited a bit more.

I think one more draft, and then it’ll be sent off for submission – if I’m honest, I think that’ll happen by the end of the week, it’s that close to the end.  I’m looking forward to having another piece of work sent out into the ether, waiting for a positive response.  It will happen one day.  It has to.

Posted in thoughts

Publishers on Twitter

To keep up to date with potential publishers I am following a lot of them on twitter, and I enjoy following their stories.  They like to retweet work from their clients, obviously.  Then there are some who are very passionate about charities and want to support the causes on top of advertising themselves.  This to me is ideal.  It shows professionalism and passion and those elements are good indicators of a hard-working publishing house.

Have you seen anything from a publisher or an agent that’s made you feel differently about them?

Posted in progress, writing

Publisher’s Help

After browsing for an agent to submit my work to, I came across Maverick.  I won’t be able to send my current manuscript to them as the story does not fit their requirements BUT I did find some helpful tips for those who could do with a bit of guidance.


I think project three will be suitable for Maverick though, so let’s see what happens once that is ready for submitting.

Posted in writing

Publishing Stories

As you know, I’ve been sharing my process of finding a literary agent and so far I can confirm I have had two rejections. I haven’t feel deflated or defeated, but it has encouraged me to keep on going. Whether the manuscript gets published or not, I do believe I WILL get something published one day; If I keep writing, the determination will pay off. There’s no other option.

What stories, good or bad, can you share about looking for a publisher or agent?