Nervous Nigel by Bethany Christou. Templar Books, c2020, 2022. 9781536223866
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review): 4
Format: Hardcover picture book
What did you like about the book? Nigel the crocodile hales from a family of swim champions, which we can see from the long rows of trophies that line the book’s end papers. As Nigel walks through his house, he sees framed photos of aunts, cousins, parents, and siblings excelling at triathlons, water polo, and diving. What’s the problem? Nigel loves swimming, but he doesn’t like competing. His idea of fun is to float slowly on his back thinking deep thoughts, but not wanting to be a disappointment, he submits to Mom’s coaching. Nigel dreads the thought of an upcoming race and even tries faking illness to get out of his obligations, but to no avail. In the end, he can’t even bring himself to dive into the water and runs away in shame. Luckily, a chance encounter with a frog helps our hero come up with a plan to run a floating ferry (himself!) and offer scenic tours, thus honoring his swimming heritage with a Nigel-esque twist. Lovely gouache illustrations with lots of humorous detail seal the deal. The super engaging crocodiles, with their human clothes and housewares, reward close inspection and also hint that no one in this adorable family is going to come down hard on Nigel once he finds his voice and speaks up.
Anything you didn’t like about it? No
To whom would you recommend this book? This is a cute story that would work well as a read aloud. With all the societal pressure on kids to excel at sports or risk parental disapproval, I think this book will strike a chord with many young readers. This could make for some lively discussion: why does Nigel feel nervous about expressing himself? When should he have said something? What does it feel like to be different from other people in your family?
Who should buy this book? Elementary schools and public libraries
Where would you shelve it? Picture books
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No
Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA
Date of review: August 3, 2022