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About the Author

Randy Cecil has illustrated numerous books for children, including We've All Got Bellybuttons (9780744593204) by David Martin, My Father the Dog (9780744593914) by Elizabeth Bluemle and One Is a Snail, Ten Is a Crab (9781844281640) by April Pulley Sayre and Jeff Sayre. He is also the author-illustrator of Duck, about Gator's friend and fellow merry-go-round animal. Randy lives in Texas, USA.


Gr 1-3-Gator used to be a popular carousel animal, but that was before the amusement park closed. Now, the happy laughter of the children has faded to only a memory. Tired of waiting for the good times to return, he leaves the park, but with a hole in his heart where the pole used to be. After wandering aimlessly in the forest, he follows the sounds of laughter with the hope of finding another amusement park. But to his sorrow, he finds only a zoo. In his disappointment, he sits on a bench where he is recognized by a passing man. Soon everyone follows Gator back to the old park, where the flashing lights come on and the calliope is playing again. As he reclaims his place on the carousel, the hole in his heart disappears. The text, placed on the top or bottom of the page and often appearing in a gilded oval frame, is unremarkable. Cecil's quirky illustrations include oblong-headed humans and have sufficient detail to determine the character's emotions. The hole in Gator's chest makes logical sense, but is a tad disturbing. It is the oil-paint illustrations that provide the story's overall mood. The muted, flat colors including gold, green, and gray give even the happy scenes a somber feeling. This pervasive mood tends to drag the whole story down. Cecil's take on a familiar theme is different but not completely effective.-Catherine Callegari, Gay-Kimball Library, Troy, NH Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

Gator, who is a grinning green merry-go-round fixture and not an actual reptile, recalls a time when the amusement park was popular with children. Gradually, crowds stop coming, and the hurdy-gurdy days fade. Gator imagines the ride operating and "the wind on his face. But it was only a spider attaching its web to his snout." Somehow (not shown in the pictures) Gator detaches from his carousel pole, leaving a "hole in his heart." Waddling like a penguin, he follows the sound of laughter to a zoo, where his painted-on saddle distinguishes him from the (mostly) sleeping alligators. Cecil's (We've All Got Bellybuttons!) nostalgic tale echoes many classic books. Like the Velveteen Rabbit, Gator isn't real enough to blend with living creatures; like Virginia Lee Burton's Little House, he is old-fashioned but sturdy. His quest, like theirs, ends with a lucky break: a boy hears Gator sniffling, and the boy's father recognizes Gator, leading to a revival of the decrepit carousel. Soon "everything was just the way it used to be." Cecil's shadowy, sepia-tinted oil paintings recall the art for Fred Marcellino's I, Crocodile, but attached to a rather maudlin story. Even if Gator's desire to reverse time is understandable, the wishful conclusion feels false rather than magical. Ages 3-5. (Mar.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

Cecil's nostalgic tale echoes many classic books. * Publishers Weekly *
Children will identify with this odd little hero as he sets off to make things right and, despite moments of fear and sadness, succeeds in the end. Cecil creates a fine sense of place in a series of well-composed oil paintings... Quiet, old-fashioned, and endearing. * Booklist *

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