Once a Creepy Crocodile

Yay!!! It was Shortlisted for

Speech Pathology Australia's

'Book of the Year Award, 2015'

for children aged 3-5 years old

...promoting 'quality Australian books that help children get the best, most literate start in life and which encourage a love of reading'

...and enhancing awareness of the role speech pathologists play in language and literacy development.

I wrote this rhyming picture book for 3-9 year old children, but I know it is enjoyed by 2 year olds as well. It has been wonderfully illustrated by Nina Rycroft and it's published by the Five Mile Press. The words are to the rhythm of Waltzing Matilda and the book comes with a fun sing-along CD by Rusty Berther that also includes the traditional Waltzing Matilda song.

It should be available from Australian and New Zealand stores, but if you find difficulty locating or ordering a copy, it can be purchased online from The Book DepositoryBoomerang Books (thank you for the review!) and also from the publisher The Five Mile Press and also from other sites - but please support your local bookstore if you can. The recommended price is $16.95

I'm sure children and adults will love the words, the pictures and the music.

Once a creepy crocodile crawled toward a river bank,

He spied a baby brolga by a bottle-brush tree,

And his tail wagged and wiggled while he winked and grinned and giggled saying,

'Please come and join me for afternoon tea.'

'No!' squealed Echidna. 'Stop!' croaked the tree-frog,

'Run,' cried Koala, 'he'll eat you don't you see?' ... ...

If you purchase a copy or borrow one from a library and add a review somewhere, let me know and I'll send you a little gift.

Young children may drum along in time to the recording, using cardboard boxes and household items as percussion instruments ...but if you'd like to play it yourself, here's some FREE sheet music for you to download:

Simple sheet music

for voice or a recorder or similar instrument

Sheet music in two parts

for two recorders or instruments, or two voices ...or a choir

There are many ways the music can be arranged. These versions are not intended to completely match the recording on the CD. Feel free to create a totally different arrangement.

If you add your performance to YouTube or elsewhere, I do hold copyright to the words through my literary agent and will appreciate an acknowledgement and inclusion of details of this book from which they originated. Please let me know if you post it somewhere and I'll also send you a small gift ...and if you act it out and post the result.

And I'll similarly send a small gift if you add a video of a child enjoying reading it, having it read to them, or bopping along to the CD.

Yes, the characters are all Australian wildlife creatures, and Nina has drawn an outline of them all on a sheet to print, colour, cut them out and attach to paddle-pop sticks (or similar) and create your own version of the story. Download the sheet from this link:


Here are some true facts about the wildlife characters:

(Offers of images I can add will be much appreciated and fully acknowledged - I took the ones that are not acknowledged.)


The curved lips of crocodiles make them appear to be always grinning. Crocodiles make many noises and will leap high out of the water to eat snakes and birds (as well as other creatures).

((Image: Tony Ashton   http://www.tytotony.blogspot.com.au))


Adult brolgas dance by stepping forwards and back, shaking their wings, jumping in the air and throwing and catching grass. Occasionally they will look for food under mangrove trees.

((Images:  Tony Ashton    http://www.tytotony.blogspot.com.au))

Bottlebrush Tree

These trees grow in swampy areas and on drier ground. Their flowers have long thread-like stamens and very tiny petals, and do look like red, cream or white bottlebrushes.


Echidnas are hairy and spiny mammals but lay eggs. The mother’s milk is pink. Baby echidnas, called puggles, live in their mother’s pouch until their spines harden and become sharp. 


Green tree-frogs have toe-pads to help them climb trees, but they also enjoy sitting in drain-pipes, sinks and toilets. This one is climbing our gatepost. They shoot out their sticky tongue to catch small insects.



Koalas only drink a few times a year. Their new-born babies are baked-bean size and crawl to the mother’s pouch. There they face backwards when they have grown big enough to look out.

Blossom Bat

‘Northern blossom bats’ are so small they can hide under a flake of bark or in a curled up leaf. They fly in the daytime or at night to feed on bottlebrush and mangrove tree flowers ...and also durian flowers as photographed here by Barbara Maslen and Allen Sheather.

((Image:  Barbara Maslen and Allen Sheather   http://wildwings.com.au))


Dingos are a kind of medium sized dog, but they cannot bark – though they do howl. Unlike the ears of a normal pet dog, a dingo’s ears always stand upright and never flap over.

 ((Image: Tony Ashton   http://www.tytotony.blogspot.com.au))

Boobook Owl

Its name sounds like its call. Owls have one ear higher than the other. The edges of their wing feathers are split into hairy strands to help them flap silently to surprise and catch their food. This is a juvenile (with a Willie Wagtail behind it).

((Image: Tony Ashton   http://www.tytotony.blogspot.com.au))


‘Brown Tree-Snakes’ found in mangrove trees have dots - but this one is sitting in the middle of the road. The top image is of a Common Tree Snake. The ‘white-bellied mangrove snake’ is the only snake that pulls its food apart (crabs) – all other snakes swallow their food whole.

((Images: Tony Ashton   http://www.tytotony.blogspot.com.au))

Mangrove Tree

Mangrove trees enjoy living in salt water and mud. Many have special upward growing roots that take air to those underground, or stilt roots that hold the trunk above the water.


A brolga’s favourite foods are insects, worms, frogs and plant roots. They might find curly moth and butterfly larvae (caterpillars), and beetle larvae that fall off leaves and into the mud under mangrove trees. Caterpillars have about three times as many muscles as humans. To escape their enemies, some can instantly turn themselves into a wheel and roll away at a speed of 20 centimetres (8 inches) a second.  


‘Long-tailed pygmy possums’ have a hairy tongue to help them drink the sugary nectar from tree flowers. While they are drinking, yellow pollen dust from the flowers collects on their fur - they then comb off the pollen with their claws and eat it.

This photo, however, is of a brush-tailed possum, the commonest kind of possum that lives in towns and cities. It's about the size of a cat and is sitting on wood that's stored on a shelf just under our shed roof.


Goannas are big lizards that can grow to be 2metres (over 6 feet) long. When they are frightened they run at high speed on their hind legs and will also climb trees, moving around the trunk to remain hidden from sight. You will often find them looking for scraps at picnic grounds. Aboriginal people like to eat goannas that have been cooked in a pit.

((Image: Fay Dent))


A kookaburra’s call does sound very much like someone laughing. First one starts, then all the others in the neighbourhood join in. Kookaburras like living near people and will steal hot meat and sausages from a barbecue.

((Image:  Fay Dent))

Please contact me if you'd like me to visit your school, library, writing group, Festival, Conference...

The story behind the story

- some background on its creation -

The story is only 239 words long, but was not written ‘finished’ – it took quite a while to evolve ...a very long time indeed if you count my reading history, experiences listening to words being used and my writing practice, study and networking.

It was started in a workshop with world-famous author and illustrator, Jan Ormerod. It had been organised by the Ipswich District Teacher Librarian Network and was held at the 2009 Ipswich Festival of Children’s Literature. Fellow author Julie Nickerson and I came up with three possible verses on the day, and I asked Julie if she intended to keep working more on it, or if she’d mind if I carried on developing the text myself – and she very generously agreed that I could make it my own. But it’s really partly hers, and has had input from many other writers in networks to which I belong.

After I'd written a considerable number of drafts and versions, I first pitched it to a panel of editors and agents it at the 2010 International SCBWI Symposium in Bologna (the international Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators). Only NZ agent Frances Plumpton was encouraging (the others questioned whether children in the US would be interested in unfamiliar creatures such as a dingo and a brolga). I also met editor Helen Chamberlin from Windy Hollow Books there, and she later suggested the addition of extra verses. After more work over a period of months, next it was entered into a competition. Though it scored highly from their judges, it didn’t make it to the shortlist for a prize – but it was loved by Karen Tayleur, managing editor of the Five Mile Press when she did a paid appraisal of it at the SCBWI International Conference in Sydney in the same year.

With Karen’s enthusiasm shown, I thrust a copy of the story into the hand of one of my all-time favourite illustrators,  Nina Rycroft, as she was about to leave, and I asked her if she’d consider illustrating it if a contract was offered. Though the publisher decides and usually chooses the illustrator them-self, I was able to inform The Five Mile Press that Nina was willing and available if they wished to approach her.

But there was a problem. Was the rhythm of Waltzing Matilda copyright, or the music, if it was recorded? Australia had to pay a fee to a US copyright-holder when ‘Waltzing Matilda’ was sung in the stadium at the Atlanta Olympics. Apparently this was solved and it was accepted for publication in February 2011. During the time that Nina was busy painting, the text was again improved with Karen's editing and also to ensure a fit with Rusty's musical arrangement.

It became available in July 2014, so its creation was a lengthy process, but some books take many more years to reach the shelves than was  my experience with this one.