By Rachel Dangermond
One of the facts about young minds is children like scary stories that produce pleasurable anxiety. In Gina Minor Allen’s book the alligator fills the role of dread in the plot. Little do we know as we turn the pages that it is actually an unreliable narrator, a boy who cried alligator, who is actually causing all the tension.
The illustrations show us iconic scenes of a typical day at the park in New Orleans. There is a pleasant hue spectrum of people chilling out, exercising, playing music and even grilling, when the boy announces the appearance of the perpetrator, “There’s an Alligator in Audubon Park!” He then goes on to tell you just how scared you should be about that. The alligator is going to eat the critters, young kids, and he’s partial to redheads with brown eyes. Oh no! He’s actually coming for you, the boy says.
Typical of New Orleans, everyone he tells has a different vision for what to do when the alligator is caught. Make him into a purse? Collect reward money for his capture? Free him! Eat him! This is deftly illustrated as an almost street parade as everyone follows their imaginings to hunt for the alligator. Until we learn that this creature is only the imaginings of the narrator himself.
Why do children love to be scared? Reading scary stories reflects the range of human emotions that we all experience. Since we are all storytellers in our natural state, children also like to see someone like them making stuff up. Truth is there could be alligator in Audubon Park. Allen’s nicely blends this fact and fiction in her book.
Rachel Dangermond is the author of the forthcoming book, An elephant in the Playground.