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Crocodile Gene and His Friends Hardcover – October 25, 1994
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From School Library Journal
Grade 3-5-This is the story of three unlikely companions who come together to form a House of Friendship: Gene, a crocodile who works the day shift in a zoo; Floptop, a creature "completely unknown to science" transported from a tropical forest by mistake; and Gail, a child. Soon they are threatened by an old woman who has a pet rat and goes around looking for evil. Why she chooses to torment them is never clear, except for the fact that they embody goodness and kindness. When they finally vanquish her, the scene is almost anticlimactic. The setting is clearly urban; however, no sense of place is established, except for one episode in which the friends encounter the Russian bureaucracy while trying to buy bricks. The plot is unconvincing and the characters are flat; the total effect is an overly whimsical tale that is neither amusing nor touching but is instead rather silly and pointless.
Jane Gardner Connor, South Carolina State Library, Columbia
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Russian
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Top Customer Reviews
My nephew, who is five, thoroughly enjoyed this book. He especially liked that it had his name in it. He enjoys having his mom help him read it, since he is a beginning reader. I hope you enjoy the book as much as he does.
The editorial review misses the point completely. To start with, the assertion that this is a book for grades 3-5 is a nonsense, and being wrong it renders all the rest of the review quite irrelevant. This is indeed a very simple and naive story about friendship for little kids, as the originally assigned Amazon category suggests (I would say, more likely 4-6 than 8), thus no twisted plot or complicated characters, of course. Why does the evil old lady go after our frieds, what is her motive? Well, she is a bully, plain and simple. Like, or no like, don't take the book for what it is not. Its audience is clearly much closer to the 'Little Kitty' period than to that of Star Wars or classical English novels (which, I presume here, 5-6 graders are quite capable of reading).
And last but not the least, while simple, the story is flavored with very light, warm and kind humor. By the way, Gene does not even "work day-shift in a zoo". For his daily job he rather holds a position of Crocodile in a zoo.
The true classics is the cartoon, or actually doll animation, from 70-s with the same title (I am not sure whether the animation or the book came first, but the author is the same, of course).
In the country where fiction for grown-ups was severely monitored and censors were more powerful than editors many of the writers had chosen to write for kids and thus re-direct their creative force into a more neutral flow wher political tensions were not present.
When I read the editorial review I was really shocked. I bet the reviewer failed to understand the cultural references that the Russian people had in the Soviet Union.
The Western type of kids' entertainment and literature driven by Tom&Jerry and Spiderman comic books (btw, there were no comic books in the Soviet Union. Kids read books instead.) was totally uncommon and even banned and kind stories like this one about Gene were everything the Soviet kids had.
This story is a story about friendship - plain and simple. It is meant for really small kids and it is good enough at this point. Besides, it also gives a hint of what life in the Soviet Union was (the episode of buying bricks).
If you liked this book, check out the Soyuzmultfilm animated series about Gene and Floptop.