Review Blog

Oct 30 2012

Figaro and Rumba and the Crocodile Cafe by Anna Fienberg

cover image

Ill. by Stephen Michael King. Allen and Unwin, 2012. ISBN 978 1 74237 311 9.
(Age: 7+) Early chapter book. Humour. Good friends Figaro the dog and Rumba the cat plan to catch the Very Fast Train to the beach. But their friend, Rat says he has lost his friend, Nate last seen paddling a canoe. The first two chapters show their plans for the beach go awry, but by chapter three they are travelling with Mrs Foozy on her motorbike, at least headed in the right direction. King's marvellously wry illustrations set the scene perfectly, adding a level of humour and anticipation which readers will adore.
This six chapter picture book for newly independent readers will enthrall and delight as they read of this wonderful pair of characters and their friends. Each chapter reiterates their friendship, trust and care of each other's feelings. Chapter four sees them on the train at long last, but in the carriage of a very shady character, a crocodile. With his easy charm and wonderful waistcoat, he invites them to this cafe, redolent of the Cuba where Rumba was born. Figaro, with some suspicion of the crocodile decides not to take his offer of staying in the cafe, but goes off to explore. He finds some cats locked in a small shed and ringing the police, learns that the crocodile is a cat-napper, ready to add Rumba to his captives.
A lovely story, neatly resolved, it is full of things to take note of: invitations from strangers, friendship, holidays with friends on a train, learning to swim and taking risks for a friend while learning a little about Cuba and the Spanish language. An astute teacher or parent will find a lot to discuss with a child or a class. But the main thing is the story of friends helping each other, and along with the lively illustrations, will be sought after, with a hint from Fienbeerg that there may be another story about these two, adding to its pleasure.
Fran Knight

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