Review: Crocodile River by Diana Lawrenson and Danny Snell

Life’s tough for a saltwater crocodile, in the early days at least. As a hatchling, Cranky the salty has to watch out for hungry turtles and sea eagles while herself snapping up insects and tadpoles.  As she grows, her diet successively changes from little fish and prawns, to larger fish, frogs and fruit bats. Bigger still, she waits for wild piglets but has to escape from an even larger crocodile.

Lawrenson has carefully woven much information about saltwater crocodiles into her tale of Cranky’s search for a place of her own. We are shown that crocodiles are part of the natural order of things, rather than something to be feared.  As a youngster, she is just as vulnerable to human predation as we are to her when she is bigger and stronger. The end papers of the book contain fact about the crocodile’s  life cycle, habitat and adaptations. My only gripe with this book as a science teacher is the tendency to attribute words and thoughts to Cranky, who really wouldn’t be using language. I’d be interested in hearing the views of others on this.

The predator/prey relationship here is really strong and it would work well as an introduction to food webs. In terms of life cycles, we see Cranky progress from one of many eggs, through the vulnerable hatchling stage till she is finally an adult. It could be used in the early years as an introduction, or in later years as a practical exercise in food chain/web mapping. Cranky goes full cycle, from being prey to predator. It’s great to have Australian texts to work with rather than outdated or overseas texts. Crocodile River is equally applicable to any discussion on habitat or adatations.

Teacher’s notes can be accessed through either Lawrenson’s website or via the publisher, Working Title Press.

Notable Book, Children’s Book Council of Australia
Whitley Award, Royal Zoological Society of NSW

Biological sciences (Foundation)

Living things have basic needs, including food and water

  • recognising the needs of living things in a range of situations such as pets at home, plants in the garden or plants and animals in bushland

Biological sciences (Year 1)

Living things have a variety of external features

  • recognising common features of animals such as head, legs and wings
  • describing the use of animal body parts for particular purposes such as moving and feeding

Living things live in different places where their needs are met

  • exploring different habitats in the local environment such as the beach, bush and backyard
  • recognising that different living things live in different places such as land and water

Biological sciences (Year 2)

Living things grow, change and have offspring similar to themselves

  • representing personal growth and changes from birth
  • recognising that living things have predictable characteristics at different stages of development
  • exploring different characteristics of life stages in animals such as egg, caterpillar and butterfly
  • observing that all animals have offspring, usually with two parents

Biological sciences (Year 4)

Living things have life cycles

  • making and recording observations of living things as they develop through their life cycles
  • describing the stages of life cycles of different living things such as insects, birds, frogs and flowering plants

Living things, including plants and animals, depend on each other and the environment to survive.

  • investigating the roles of living things in a habitat, for instance producers, consumers or decomposers
  • observing and describing predator-prey relationships
  • predicting the effects when living things in feeding relationships are removed or die out in an area
  • recognising that interactions between living things may be competitive or mutually beneficial.

Biological sciences (Year 5)

Living things have structural features and adaptations that help them to survive in their environment. 

  • describing and listing adaptations of living things suited for the Australian environment
  • exploring general adaptations for particular environments such as water conservation in deserts
  • explaining how particular adaptations help survival such as nocturnal behaviour, silvery coloured leaves of dune plants
  • comparing types of adaptations such as behavioural and structural

Author: Diana Lawrenson

Illustrator: Danny Snell

Working Title Press, 209

ISBN 9781876288921

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Filed under Biological Sciences Sub-strand, Foundation, Level 1, Level 2, Level 3, Level 4, Level 5

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