Gus by Liz Murray and Walid Serageldine
This disarming story of friendship allied with age is offered here with a lovely tale of a crocodile and a boy who share the same birthday. The crocodile hatches on the same day that Edward is taken to the zoo as a birthday present. Edward see the crocodile break out of its shell and comes back every birthday to share the day with his friend. We see the pair sharing the day each year going through the years as Edward grows up, eventually becoming the keeper at the zoo, enabling him to see Gus every day. As time passes, the man can no longer look after Gus, and eventually he retires from work, but still comes in on their birthdays each year. One year, Edward is not there, so Gus sets out to look for him.
He tracks him down in the yellow house on the hill, a place for retired older people, and he sits by Edward’s bedside, working out a way for Edward to come and visit.
The scope of age is given in this lovely tale where the ages of a man are covered from youth to getting a job, marrying, having his own children, then retiring and eventually finding a home for his last years. Each of the birthdays is celebrated with his old friend, Gus, who is also getting older, the text dropping hints about his ageing process as well.
The illustrations show a wonderful crocodile reclining in his pool at the zoo, looking forward to each birthday and later seeing Edward every day. We see the zoo visitors through the crocodile’s eyes, and feel with him when Edward does not come to see him.
I love Gus’ pants, from the nappy on the small animal to his jaunty older pants. And I laughed at the contrasting faces at the nursing home when Edward arrives. What fun to imagine a crocodile walking the streets looking for his friend.
This warm hearted story will encourage readers to think about an array of things, friendship and how people age, but some eager readers will want to know about crocodiles as well.
Themes: Age, Friendship, Crocodiles, Zoos.