Review of ‘Once a Creepy Crocodile’

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Review of ‘Once a Creepy Crocodile’

Written by Peter Taylor. Illustrated by Nina Rycroft. Musical arrangement Rusty Berther.

Publisher: Five Mile Press (book and CD set)

Themes: Australian animals, Waltzing Matilda, poetry, song.


The Wild Thing (3) thinks this book is just darned marvellous – a crocodile hosting a tea party and a host of animals escaping his jaws. What could be better! She’s also rather partial to a rhyming text and this one is based on the rhythm of ‘Waltzing Matilda’ so it is catchy and boy does it stick in your head! We’ve all been humming the words of this text – so it’s a perfect book for reading aloud…over and over and over.

Rhyming texts give those who are learning to read confidence as they often guess the rhyming word and once they have read the text once the rhythm helps them to re-read with ease and confidence. The illustrations support the text beautifully – the animals are hilarious and and the brightly coloured pages will keep even the youngest readers entertained.


‘Once a Creepy Crocodile’ started its life at a workshop and I saw a draft of this book at the StoryArts Festival last year, and have followed with interest. I asked Peter a few questions about the road to having this published and what’s next for him. Thank you so much Peter for taking the time to answer!

Peter can you tell us about your journey with having ‘Once a Creepy Crocodile’ published?

It was started in a workshop with Jan Ormerod at the 2009 Ipswich Festival of Children’s Literature, organised by Jenny Stubbs and the Ipswich District Teacher Librarian Network.

Jan read her book If You’re Happy and You Know It!’ (dog – wave your tail; elephant – flap your ears etcc) to us and asked for suggestions to help her with lines of a new one that she was working on. I can’t remember the rhythm of it, but everyone was silent, for it was too hard, so she said “Choose any familiar non-copyright nursery rhyme or song and write fresh words to the same rhythm. Find a partner or two. You’ve 15 minutes, then one of you can read out your effort. Go!”

I worked with fellow author Julie Nickerson (‘Pippa’s Perfect Ponytail’ and other Pippa books pub. Penguin).

“‘Ring o’roses’? ‘Hickory-Dickory’? Quick – or we won’t have anything to share. ‘Waltzing Matilda’?”

“Yes!!!” (I’m not certain which of us suggested ‘Waltzing Matilda’. It could easily have been Julie.)

“Once a… a…”

We came up with three verses on the day and everyone applauded when Julie read them. The next morning I emailed Julie and asked if she intended to keep working more on it, or if she’d mind if I carried on developing the text myself – and she very generously agreed that I could make it my own. But it’s really partly hers, and it’s also had input from many other writers in networks to which I belong, and who are acknowledged in the dedication.

Jan took much interest in all the versions that followed and it’s rocky pathway towards publication.

It was first pitched it to a panel of editors and agents it at the 2010 International SCBWI Symposium in Bologna (the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). Only NZ agent Frances Plumpton was encouraging. The other panellists questioned whether children in the US would be interested in unfamiliar creatures such as a dingo and a brolga, and suggested changes to animals everyone would know – such as lion, mouse or coyote. The audience members from a wide range of countries, however, liked it just as it was and shouted that all the Australian animals would be illustrated, so it wouldn’t matter if they were unfamiliar.

That’s not meant as a criticism of those editors and agents – it just wasn’t the kind of book that those publishers sell or the kind that excited those particular agents.

While at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, I also met Editor Helen Chamberlin from Windy Hollow Books, and she later suggested the addition of extra verses. After more work over a period of months, next it was entered into a competition in 2012. Though it was scored highly by their judges, it didn’t make it to the shortlist for a prize – but it was loved by Karen Tayleur, Managing Editor of the Five Mile Press when she did a paid appraisal of it at the SCBWI International Conference in Sydney in the same year.

With Karen’s enthusiasm shown, I thrust a copy of the story into the hand of one of my all-time favourite illustrators,  Nina Rycroft, as she was about to leave to go home from the Conference, and I asked her if she’d consider illustrating it if a contract was offered. Though a publisher decides and usually chooses the illustrator themself, I was able to inform The Five Mile Press that Nina was willing and available if they wished to approach her.


But there was a problem. The Five Mile Press sales team believed that a CD should be included of the text being sung. Was the rhythm of Waltzing Matilda copyright for the words, and for the tune if it was recorded? Australia had paid a fee to a US copyright-holder when ‘Waltzing Matilda’ was sung in the stadium at the Atlanta Olympics. Apparently this was solved for the book (for Australia, at least) and it was accepted for publication in February 2011 – two months after Jan had died.

During the time that Nina was busy painting the illustrations, the text was again improved with Karen’s editing and also to ensure a fit with Rusty Berther’s musical arrangement.

The book was finally released in July and should now be available from ‘all good Australian bookstores’ (and Target and BigW). The CD also includes Rusty’s rendition of Banjo Paterson’s original version – which is a superb outcome as it provides young children with an important contribution to our heritage and national identity.

Some of the characters are lesser known Australian animals, even to Australians, and true facts about them can be found on my Writing-for-Children website at, along with the music score to play or sing, and outlines to print on thin card that can then be cut out and attached to paddle-pop sticks to act out the story or make up a new one

I hope that one day I’ll discover someone has posted a YouTube of a school choir or band performance!

Have you got other books on the way?

Frog  There once was a tree-frog

who lived by a gate,

And he hopped out each night

at a quarter to eight…

A lady came to visit us one evening and saw a green tree frog just starting to climb out of his home in our gate post. But she thought the frog was a fancy gate handle, wrapped her hand around it and tried to pull it upwards. “Oh, yucky!” she cried, when it wriggled.

We never saw her again, but we liked our tree-frog and called him Herbert, and I started a rhyming story as soon as she drove off.

Only an initial version has been completed and it won’t be submitted to a publisher until it’s been polished. It can be read by two people alternately and at once, adult and child or two children, maybe even more, so if any family or school class of grade two or older would like to help test it out and develop it, I’d love to hear from them. Like ‘Once a Creepy Crocodile’, it has possibilities of also being a song – I’ve got an idea of what it could sound like, but I’m not an accomplished musician and haven’t attempted a score or recorded it yet. It may never become a published book.

‘A Tart Tale’ will definitely be published, but I’m not sure when. It’s been written by Jennifer Poulter – my contribution has been designing and painting the border and illuminating it with gold leaf, and calligraphing the words in a different style for each character. It’s a retelling of the Queen of Hearts and her tarts from the perspective of the Knave, the Priest, the Lady in Waiting… It’s being illustrated by Mandy Sinclair, in Scotland, who draws castles and illustrations for the Scottish Tourist Board, and it will be wonderful. The publisher who has made us an offer is in the US, but before we accept it we’re keeping our options open, hoping that we’ll find an Australian house who markets worldwide.

Here are a couple of unfinished pages:

dear child dear child 2

Then there are other ‘normal’ picture books texts in a range of stages of completion, a YA on the back burner and some non-fiction sample chapters written… Did you know that Freddie Lane, Australia’s first Olympic swimming champion (Paris Olympics of 1900) won gold and bronze for the same race? We are distantly related and I have the photos.


Megan Daley Bio

Looking for more great book reviews and recommendations? I’m Megan Daley and you can find out more about me here.

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  1. Tricia Williamson on Dec 2, 2014 at 8:10 pm

    My nieces would love this book! Sounds great

  2. Em on Dec 2, 2014 at 8:14 pm

    One of my 3 year old daughters has asked for a crocodile for Christmas. Santa is very stuck on how to fill this wish so this book would be PERFECT! She does not leave the house without a couple of books in her bag so a crocodile book would be just the thing for her!

    • Peter Taylor on Dec 5, 2014 at 7:24 pm

      Many thanks for your support of this book and kind words, Megan – and for all that you do to promote children’s books and reading. I’ve just returned from a short holiday and discovered that you’re holding/have held this giveaway.

      I’m currently trying to purchase a hand-puppet for each of the 12 Australian wildlife characters in the book. I’ve still a few to go and having to attempt to make a brolga and a suitable spotty snake, but if your daughter is really addicted to crocodiles, Em, I can recommend the ‘2130’ velveteen alligator hand-puppet made by Folkmanis and available online as well as the best stores for children’s toys and educational products

  3. Emily Burn on Dec 2, 2014 at 8:25 pm

    This sounds perfect for my book mad almost 5 year old!

  4. Nicole on Dec 2, 2014 at 9:36 pm

    We love a good croc-a-dackle story in our house 🙂

  5. Fiona on Dec 2, 2014 at 9:50 pm

    Loved Peter’s answer! Would love to have a cuppa sometime & hear more. Always amazes me how long the process is before I hold the book in my hand.

    • Peter Taylor on Dec 5, 2014 at 7:52 pm

      Thanks, Fiona! If you are in Brisbane, I do get around and always like to give people who are interested an insight into the publishing industry …and also help those writing them self. Maybe one day I’ll be invited interstate. All publishers and contracts are different. My previous book was – ‘Calligraphy for Greetings Cards and Scrapbooking’, which is for older children about 12+ to adults. I was in the UK in 2010 for my aunt’s 90th birthday, and attended the London Book Fair. This fair is mainly for publishers to sell the rights to their books to overseas companies, rather than to speak to creators. But this was the year of the Volcanic Ash, so many representatives from foreign companies could not get into the country to fulfill appointments. The Australian Publisher’s Association had a representative there, but no books arrived for them to promote. So the publishers who were there were eager to talk to anyone, even to me, to relieve the boredom. I asked if one publisher (GMC Publications) would be interested in considering ‘Lettering Fun for Children’, but they felt a cardmaking and scrapbooking focus would be more profitable. The contract specified 30,000 words and 600 images/examples/drawings done in a year. The payment was what most people earn in two weeks, and two years after it came out, I still haven’t received a royalty payment. But they produced a far better book than I would have created if left to design it and produce it myself.

      Both this and ‘Once a Creepy Crocodile’ should be available from libraries. I hope you find it and enjoy it if you don’t win the giveaway.

  6. Raelene Pugh on Dec 3, 2014 at 12:06 am

    Now living in Ireland, my girls love to read all things Australian, especially about crocodiles!

  7. Catherine Patten on Dec 3, 2014 at 3:03 am

    It’s my husband’s bday on Friday and all my daughter wants is to make him (insert scary 2 year old deep voice and creepy claws) “crocodile cake”. This book would make a perfect accompaniment!! Ps is it uncaring for her to give him a book to read her for HIS birthday?!! I think not

  8. Megan Walker on Dec 3, 2014 at 5:58 am

    My niece would adore this book. From a very early age she has expressed her love of crocs. And it seems that the pink phase is not incompatible with a love of crocs!

  9. Julie Grasso on Dec 3, 2014 at 7:26 pm

    We loved reading about Peters book, and Gigi said (3.5years) let’s put that on our Christmas list. Lol plus, I love the calligraphy book, will be watching out for that one.

    • Peter Taylor on Dec 5, 2014 at 7:54 pm

      Thanks, Julie. I’ve no idea when the Queen of Hearts book in calligraphy will come out. Don’t hold your breath waiting – it could be 6 months, or a year, or…

  10. Angela on Dec 3, 2014 at 9:08 pm

    both my kids, 5yo and 2yo, love books that come with CD’s. I love them too, it’s fun to read and sing along together 🙂

  11. Angela on Dec 3, 2014 at 9:13 pm

    Both my children, 5yo and 2 yo, love audio books. They add another layer of fun to story time 🙂

  12. Rebecca Sheraton on Dec 5, 2014 at 1:41 pm

    It is a wonderful and fun story that adults and kids both enjoy!

  13. Jocelyn on Dec 5, 2014 at 5:39 pm

    I’m a greedy big kid who wants this book for herself. But I will share it with the neighbourhood kids if they promise to sing along with me.

  14. Peter Taylor on Dec 5, 2014 at 8:08 pm

    Very many thanks to you all for your eagerness to win the copy. I do believe your children will love it. It is intended for 3+, but a friend’s 2 year old has now learned most of the words, so they must have asked for it a significant number of times. At the other end of the age range, children about 8 or 9 will probably like playing the song on a recorder or other musical instrument, and the score can be downloaded from my website – but my daughter and I wrote this version, and it is not absolutely identical with the CD.

    If by any chance you live on the north side of Brisbane, I will be doing a reading at Everton Park Library on December 17th at 10.30am (along with a couple of other stories). I will try to get to other areas, too. It is currently unavailable from overseas based online/physical stores, possibly because of the US copyright issues with the tune and original song. But the publisher, The Five Mile Press will mail copies worldwide.

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