I Really Want to Eat a Child
reviewed by James Simpson
I Really Want to Eat a Child, is a brilliant little picture book. I especially loved the ending! The simple illustrations aren’t the most realistic amongst the picture book world, and the crocodiles are a lot more human like, they thankfully don’t wear clothes or anything like this, but with actions such as walking, the crocodiles do so on their hind legs. This factor probably does allow children to relate a bit more to the characters, especially the young croc Achilles.
Basic plot of this brilliantly titled picture book revolves around a very young crocodile named Achilles. Achilles is throwing a bit of a tantrum over the fact that he’s sick of the food his parents are delivering each day. Understandably when you consider what they’re feeding him are bananas, it’s never made clear if these are vegetarian crocodiles or if the author is just simply unfamiliar with what crocodiles eat since this book was originally published four years before the English version in French. Maybe because they don’t have crocs in France, the author just didn’t know what crocs eat. Anyway, Achilles is so sick of bananas, he’s turning his back on his parents, sitting with his arms crossed refusing to eat unless his parents bring him the food he craves, a child. His parents offer him a few other alternatives but still Achilles refuses to contemplate any other offering with his constant demand “I really want to eat a child!” Nothing his parents do seems to be able to end his hunger strike so feeling weak, Achilles decides to take a swim so he’ll feel better. It is not long before he comes across a foolish human child who is sitting on the river bank with her feet in the water. When Achilles is presented with this chance, will his dream meal come true?
I can understand why some readers may find the subject matter a bit controversial for kids. I too don’t think Achilles parents should have given into his bad behaviour midway through the story by rewarding him with chocolate cake. But this really doesn’t hamper the important lessons for children that the story contains about the consequences of mistreating animals and that wild animals aren’t toys. You could even relate the lesson learnt to tormenting dogs in the park or the family cat. Like with teaching kids the lessons of not sitting or playing on river banks that salties habitat, the chocolate cake for bad behaviour scenes can be tackled simply by the reader holding up the illustration and asking the question to the children being read to, if Achilles or you were being bad/not eating his dinner, should he really be rewarded with junk food?
This book is an excellent tool to stimulate discussion on croc safety for those who are planning a holiday further north into Queensland, the Northern Territory or Western Australia. Or even an overseas trip to Africa (where this story is set), South America or even in relation to alligator danger in the southern US states such as Florida or when wandering through the sewer systems of Manhattan. Even if you are not planning on a holiday, this is simply a very entertaining little story!