Elizabeth and Larry

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by Marilyn Sadler, illustrated by Roger Bollen. (Simon and Schuster, 1990 ISBN 0671691899. Order Online.). Picture Book. Grades 1+.
This review by Carol Otis Hurst first appeared in Teaching K-8 Magazine.
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Review

This is the story of two old (Elizabeth is sixty-two and Larry, "pushing forty") friends. They share so many common interests, that it seems their friendship will last forever. The only thing they don't share is a species: Elizabeth is a human and Larry, an alligator. Although this doesn't bother them, it does cause others to wonder. Elizabeth got Larry by mistake in a crate of oranges and decided to keep him. Larry's only complaint was the size of her pool, a bathtub. It comes as a shock to Larry that he doesn't look like Elizabeth. (He always thought he did and you'll see a resemblance.) This doesn't interrupt things much and the friendship grows even stronger as the two avoid others increasingly. When they do go out, Larry disguises himself as a woman. It's the arrival of Elizabeth's relatives that makes Larry feel different and despondent. Elizabeth, touched by her old friend's sadness, sends him off to Florida to be with others of his own kind. Now it's Elizabeth's turn to be sad. She misses Larry terribly. The solution? Elizabeth joins Larry and his friends and everybody's happy.

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Things to Notice and Talk About

  • What tales do you supposed they told each other? The story says, "things they had never told anyone." What could those be?

  • Look for the ways in which Larry is alligatorish and ways in which Elizabeth is too. Then look for ways in which each acts like a human.

  • Where else might Larry have come from? Does he have a mother?

  • Elizabeth's relatives are sure that what she needs is a cat to end her loneliness. Why? and take a look at those cats. Would you take one?

  • Notice the cover of the book. Why does it have horizontal lines?

  • What sort of life would Larry and his family enjoy in Florida? Would they wear clothing with people symbols on the pocket? What sort of cars would they drive? What would be their favorite tv shows?

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Activities

  • Look at the pictures of both sets of relatives. Give them names.

  • Look at the endpapers which show Larry in various poses with an occasional picture of Elizabeth. Draw more. Reverse them.

  • Elizabeth and Larry do look a bit alike. Find pictures of famous people and animals they resemble: Winston Churchill and J. Edgar Hoover both had a bulldog look about them and several current stars resemble sheepdogs and collies.

  • Cut out some pictures of animals and draw people who resemble them. If the person you drew tried to fit into that animal's life, what adjustments would he/she have to make?

  • Read the book aloud to a variety of ages and see when and if people laugh. Try reading it to an adult. Do they laugh at the same places kids do? Why?

  • Map the journey of Larry and compare his journey north to his journey south.

  • Compare the friendship of Elizabeth and Larry to other unusual or cross-species friendships. How many can you find in picture books?

  • Plan a celebration party for all the characters in the book. What would you serve? What's the entertainment?

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Related Books

  • Read Animals Should Definitely Not Act Like People by Judith Barrett (Macmillan, 1988 ISBN 0-689-71287-1) and Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothing by the same author (Macmillan, 1970 ISBN 0-689-20592-9). Try some of those outfits on Larry. Design some better clothing for him. Make a life sized Larry and dress him properly for the weather outside. Put him in various places around the school.

  • Read Maurice Sendak's Alligators All Around (Harper, 1962 ISBN 0-06-025530-7). Which of those activities might Larry enjoy?

  • Introduce Larry the alligator to Lyle the crocodile from Bernard Waber's books. What do they have in common besides a certain surface resemblance?

  • Compare Elizabeth to Emma in the picture book Emma by Wendy Kesselman, illustrated by Barbara Cooney (Harper, 1985 ISBN 0-06-443077-4). They are both lonely. How are their solutions different? Would either woman be happy in the other woman's life?

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Related Areas within Carol Hurst's Children's Literature Site

  • Emma by Wendy Kesselman is a Featured Book on this site.

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