The Swap by Jan Ormerod and illustrated by Andrew Joyner, hardback picture book, published by Littler Hare Books in 2013.
Caroline Crocodile is very jealous of her baby brother. Mama Crocodile is always saying how wonderful he is, and giving him big smoochy kisses. Caroline thinks her brother is just a big smelly and drooly mess, and she really wants Mama Crocodile to herself. So when Mama Crocodile asks Caroline to look after her brother while she pops into the hat shop, Caroline decides to trade her brother for a new baby at The Baby Shop. She tries a baby panda, twin tiger cubs and an elephant, but none of them are quite right. Perhaps her baby brother really is the best brother to have after all?
A beautiful picture book about the love of a sister for her brother, this story touched my heart. My preschooler chose this book to read before bed last night, and it was lovely to share it with her. She has a baby brother of her own, who she thinks is often smelly and dribbly just like Caroline’s little brother. I’m pretty sure my preschooler has considered swapping her brother on occasion (when he threw her toothbrush in the toilet, bit her tummy hard enough to draw blood, emptied a water bottle into her bed…), yet she loves him dearly, and knows that he is her perfect little brother. Baby brothers or sisters often get a lot of attention, but this doesn’t diminish an older sibling’s love or importance, it’s just that babies are so messy and dependent! It can take a while for an older sibling to realise this, just like Caroline. And just like Caroline, sometimes older siblings might be jealous of a baby in their family. My preschooler really related to Caroline Crocodile and laughed a lot when Caroline tried to trade her brother in. She also thought that the antics of the substitute brothers were hilarious. I liked the twin tigers that were “too tiring”, as they quickly destroyed a toy shop and menaced the other children, while my preschooler liked the baby elephant sitting in the fountain. The illustrations in The Swap are colourful and entertaining. There were plenty of things for my preschooler to spot, especially in the town scenes. We enjoyed looking carefully at all the pictures. Caroline Crocodile’s facial expressions are wonderfully realistic and it was easy to see how she was feeling.
Especially good to read to big brothers and sisters, The Swap is a great story for all preschoolers and lower primary school children.
* The Swap was the winner of the 2014 Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year in the Early Childhood category.