Heavy Medal Finalist – Princess Cora and the Crocodile
Long List Title: PRINCESS CORA AND THE CROCODILE ( (Titles on our long list will be included in our online conversation and balloting, alongside the short list titles.)
PRINCESS CORA received three starred reviews and made one “Best Books of 2017” list (PW). It’s been mentioned here on Heavy Medal, but not extensively. I’m certainly glad to have it on the “First Chapter Books” shelves at my library because it’s accessible to the target audience for that collection and more interesting and original than most books in that very popular section. But is it Newbery worthy?
The style seems just right. The plot revolves around the crocodile pretending to be Cora while she escapes the castle, and it’s managed with restraint and a light humorous tone, rather than big jokes. The theme is similar in many ways to HELLO UNIVERSE: Cora needs to find her voice and be seen for who she really is by her parents.
The interplay between Cora and the crocodile works quite well in terms of that theme. When they’re apart, we see the crocodile acting out as Cora might have wanted to, but going much farther (chewing on the King, for example). Meanwhile, Cora’s outdoor adventures are pretty tame, but clearly exciting compared to her typical boring days.
When the two get together again, that Cora’s reaction to the crocodile and her own adventure lead to changes. She’s angry at the crocodile’s bad behavior, but at the same time empathizes with the reasons for the biting:
“You bit them!’ said Princess Cora. “I told you not to!”
“I forgot,” said the crocodile. “But don’t worry. They’ll get over it. Your nanny shook her finger at me -”
“Ooh, I hate that,” said Princess Cora. “but you shouldn’t have bitten her.” [p 55]
Cora recognizes that she needs to be less rebellious than the crocodile, but still sticks up for herself enough to get more freedom (though only half of what she wishes for). And the crocodile gets more cream puffs in the end.
Very satisfying, and successful in terms of character development, plot, style, and theme. None of these are developed as deeply as most other fiction on our long list, but they shouldn’t be. According to the Terms and Criteria, committee members “must consider excellence of presentation for a child audience.” In the case of PRINCESS CORA, that audience is fairly narrow: younger readers just ready to read chapter books on their own. And I would add, younger children ready to sit through a shorter chapter book read aloud. For those kids in particular, a case could be made that this book reaches the level of excellence.
About Steven Engelfried
Steven Engelfried was the Library Services Manager at the Wilsonville Public Library in Oregon until he retired in 2022 after 35 years as a full-time librarian. He served on the 2010 Newbery committee, chaired the 2013 Newbery Committee, and also served on the 2002 Caldecott committee. You can reach him at email@example.com.
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