Written and Illustrated by Ed Emberly and Rebecca Emberly
Roaring Brook Press, 2013
The crocodile lived on the banks of the great big, brilliant blue river. His appetite was very large. His brain was very small.
The plot in a nutshell: A crocodile and scorpion decide to trust each other
The scorpion, whose brain is also particularly small, finds himself on the banks of the blue river. He knows he can’t cross it alone, so he asks the crocodile for help. The crocodile asks if the scorpion has any friends who can help, but the scorpion tells him he has no friends, since he always stings things. The crocodile sympathizes, since he also has no friends, owing to his habit of biting things. The scorpion suggests that the crocodile could carry him across the river. He promises not to sting the crocodile and the crocodile promises not to bite him. Halfway across, the scorpion can’t control himself and stings the crocodile. The crocodile responds by trying to bite the scorpion. They sink to the bottom of the river, each blaming the other for breaking their promise. The final page suggests that you can still hear them arguing to this day.
This book is a collaboration between Caldecott Award winning author/illustrator Ed Emberly and his daughter Rebecca. (Picture books are pretty much a family way of life for the Emberlys, considering that Ed’s wife, Barbara, and their son, Michael, are both also involved in writing and illustrating them.) The artwork is bold and colorful and looks as though it was made from pieces of bright construction paper, with the green crocodile and the purple scorpion standing out strongly against the vibrant blue of the river.
The basic story is often mistakenly attributed to Aesop, but its origins are actually unknown. As I originally heard it, it was a frog instead of a crocodile and when the frog asks the scorpion why he stung the frog, condemning them both to death, the scorpion responds that it is his nature. In this new version of the story, both animals go back on their promise and attack each other and their reason for doing so seems to be credited to their shared stupidity. While I’ll agree that their actions are stupid, I felt that making that the basis for their actions kind of nullifies the story’s moral. Overall, I found this a disappointing version of the story.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that, when deciding if someone is trustworthy or not, consider their behavior and actions more than their words.