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  • Ratha Tep

Interview with Eija Sumner, CROCODILE HUNGRY

Crocodile hungry. What can crocodile eat? Canned ham? Too hard to open. Beef jerky? Gets stuck in teeth. Eggs? Bite shell, get toothache. Crocodile must find food. But where? Though crocodile is surrounded by food, he doesn't know it.


Written by Eija Sumner

Illustrated by John Martz

Publisher: Tundra Books (February 15, 2022)

Can you tell me how Crocodile Hungry came about?

ES: "My family was at the Oregon Zoo and my then-toddler asked my husband, 'what do crocodiles eat?' The flamingo pond was conveniently the next feature at the zoo. The two of them spent the next few months yelling, 'Crocodiles Eat Flamingos!' followed by all the laughter and imaginative play of a little toy crocodile that would eat all the other toys in our house. The two of them being silly was the beginning of a crocodile character who didn’t know what he could eat in his natural habitat, and who was so surprised to learn that he could maybe possibly eat flamingos."

For those who love Crocodile Hungry, can you recommend a few other picture books that you think they might also enjoy? "For more books about being eaten or eating other characters, I love I Just Ate My Friend by Heidi McKinnon, and I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen, along with Lucy Ruth Cummins’ A Hungry Lion or a Dwindling Assortment of Animals.

The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen, because it’s so hilarious and plays with some of those predator-food-chain dangers and fears in unexpected ways. It’s so fun and brilliant.

John Martz included so many hilarious details in Crocodile Hungry, and I think fans of his illustrations would love any picture book by Tomi Ungerer."

Are there any other picture books you love where the reader is in on the joke? "Goodnight, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann is a classic. Life on Mars by Jon Agee. Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen."

What did you love reading to your children at age 3? At age 5? "Blue Hat, Green Hat by Sandra Boynton is hilarious and brilliant. Oops! There was a time when one of my kids would count, '1, 2, 3, PEEEEE!' instead of to '4' because we read Time to Pee by Mo Willems so often. The Fox Went Out on a Chilly Night by Peter Spier is a house favorite that my youngest at 10 still asks me to sing-read to her. It’s a beautifully illustrated folk song about a fox that sneaks into a New England town and steals a duck and a goose and then takes them home to eat with his fox family. They have a wonderful dinner, and the little foxes chew on the bones and everything— it’s a bedtime staple at my house."

What would be on your list of 100 best picture books of all time? "Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe. I had a paperback Reading Rainbow edition as a kid, and I loved it. Owl Moon by Jane Yolen and John Schoenherr. Animals Brag About Their Bottoms by Maki Saito, translated by Brian Bergstrom, is hilarious, informative, and celebratory. It is so much fun. How Tom Beat Captain Najork and His Hired Sportsmen by Russell Hoban and Quentin Blake is so silly and perfect. More fooling around! Little Witch Hazel by Phoebe Wahl is such a beautiful and wonderful book and feels like something that will be around for decades if not longer."

Do you have a favorite library/bookstore? "I love the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District in SW Washington because that’s where I rediscovered my love for children’s literature. It’s where I worked when I began writing, and I had such a great crew of supportive, funny, and smart co-workers that taught me so much about books and sharing them with kids.

BookPeople of Moscow (Idaho) is my local indie and I remember going there as a kid and I feel really lucky that it’s still a place I can go as an adult. It’s lovely.

What picture books coming out in 2022 are you most looking forward to reading? "I am really excited about A Spoonful of Frogs by Casey Lyall and Vera Brosgol, I feel like it has everything in it that I love. It is going to delight so many readers. Blue by Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond and Daniel Minter looks absolutely gorgeous, and I can’t wait to read it. I’m a self-professed art nerd and I love this type of informational book. Mama and Mommy and Me in the Middle by Nina LaCour and Kaylani Juanita is so sweet and beautiful. Nina is such a thoughtful and incredible writer, and I hope this is the first of many picture books from her."


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