Written by Marianne Berkes
Illustrated by Roberta Baird
In the Florida Everglades, an alligator lurks in the swamp beneath a thick layer of algae. He’s hungry and looking for his next meal. Who will it be? The duck that paddles in ooze? The turtle taking a snooze? Written as a cumulative rhyming story, in the same vein as “The House that Jack Built,” Berkes’ expressive language brings the still swamp to life: This is the egret / nesting up high / who watches the deer / grazing nearby / the bullfrog with / a rumbling sound / eyeing the snake who slithers around…
On every page, kids can search for half-submerged Gator, camouflaged in layered shades of green. As the poem builds, you can almost hear first graders shouting their guesses during a classroom read-aloud. The story concludes when Gator finally surfaces from the water. Out in the open and with a great big SNAP, he lurches at a hapless sunfish (cleverly designed so that the fish’s fate depends on the reader’s interpretation).
This book introduces young readers to swamp ecosystems and the critters that inhabit them, the role of camouflage, and predator-prey relationships. Back pages offer teachers and parents additional information on each animal featured, which can be used to foster discussion and/or lesson plans. “Tips from the Author” includes curriculum-related literary activities on rhyming, sequencing, and poetry, while “Tips from the Illustrator” provides a peek at Baird’s process into creating beautiful digital illustrations. More classroom resources can be found on the publishers website: www.dawnpub.com.