About attachment and Independence: What does the crocodile say?

The first day of nursery is always hard, whether it's the very first day, or the first day after a holiday break, or just a regular Monday:)
Italian author/illustrator Eva Montanari has created an adorable picture book to help little ones overcome separation anxiety and cope with stress as daycare starts.
Books can't of course take the emotions away, but they can be used to start a conversation about separation,  and to reiterate a reassuring routine. If the child doesn't speak yet, this conversation can be mainly visual, taking the form of a colourful story with noises and sounds.
Why a crocodile?
The title and main idea of the book come from a famous Italian children's song Il coccodrillo come fa?, written back in 1993. In that song, children compare a crocodile to some familiar animal farms wondering what sound he makes.
So we follow the little crocodile as he journeys from a peaceful sleep in his cot to some crying at the school door, then slowly settling into his routine with a motherly Elephant-teacher and his peers (other baby animals, of course) until a very real, emotional crocodile-mum finally comes back to pick him up.
The initial situation is somehow reversed as the crocodile's sound turns into a happy cry when jumping into his mum's arms.
Although the crocodile can't speak (just like many toddlers) Eva draws his eyes with great precision, so that we (the child) can see the emotional change as he adapts to the environment.
From a narrative point of view, some studies suggest that children perceive animals as having a much higher level of emotional intelligence than one might think: animals occupy a physical and mental space within a child’s life that is quite unlike any other human relationship. 
The uniqueness of this relationship has consequences for other aspects of a child’s mental life. In literature, an anthropomorphic animal enables the child to relate to a character as a peer, someone she has the capacity to relate to, that is void of the power structures present in human relationships.
What I loved about this book:
- The delicate pencil illustrations;
- That tear on mummy crocodile's face as she leaves her baby and then again, when she comes back, after a long a day at work. Because separation is not easy for anyone.
- The end of the story: in most books tackling the same theme the main character has so much fun at school that he refuses to leave when it's home time. Here we have the more realistic enthusiasm as he is reunited with the parent.
This is a lovely reassuring book perfect for toddlers, fostering attachment and encouraging the first steps towards independence at the same time. Because self-confidence comes with attachment.
What does the crocodile say? [August 2018] available here
Words & Art by Eva Montanari
English-language edition published by Book Island
Reading age: 1+
Themes: Nursery, Independence, Attachment


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