Akimbo and the Crocodile Man: Alexander McCall Smith

Books Worth Reading

September 11, 2018

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A wonderful book about a young boy’s adventures with one of Africa’s fiercest creatures and the friends he makes along the way.

Reading Level: Ages 7-9, and appropriate for younger children as an audio book. The print book is surprisingly difficult to find new for purchase, but try your local library or order used on Amazon.

Read Aloud time: 45 minutes

About the Author: Alexander McCall Smith was born in what is now Zimbabwe, and was a professor of Medical Law at the University of Botswana, the University of Edinburgh, and other institutions before trying his hand at fiction. He has written and contributed to more than 100 books, but is best known for The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series. He is the author of over thirty children’s books.

Here’s why kids might like Akimbo and the Crocodile Man:

This is a lively story about a 10 year old boy named Akimbo, and his adventures with the animals of Africa. Akimbo lives on a game preserve, the son of the head ranger there, and often helps his father with his work. Akimbo joins John, a zoologist known as “the Crocodile Man,” to study a family of newly hatched crocodiles. When one expedition goes awry, Akimbo must rely on his own courage and his father’s good advice to help save his new friend.

What makes Akimbo and the Crocodile Man worth reading?

As a mom, I love the Akimbo series, because the books are informative and exciting for both children and adults alike. It takes place on a game preserve in Africa, which creates a unique and compelling backdrop for Akimbo’s adventures, and they are an especially enjoyable series if your child, like mine, loves animals.

Though his escapades are not typical ones we would encounter in daily life, Akimbo himself is very relatable as a primary character. He is an ordinary, adventurous boy who is learning life lessons that do apply to your children and mine. The Akimbo series (5 books in all, which can be read in order or as individual stories) is full of entertaining tales that also afford good opportunities for discussion about Akimbo’s actions and choices.

As a caveat, the book does include one frightening incident in which a character (not Akimbo) is attacked by a crocodile, but it is not portrayed graphically and should not be too alarming for most children. My 4 year old was unphased by it.

A few ways to discuss Akimbo and the Crocodile Man with your child:

  • Why is John called “a crocodile man”? What do you think a zoologist does? What would you like to be when you grow up?
  • Why do you think John wants to study the family of crocodiles? What did you learn about crocodiles by reading this book?
  • What problems does Akimbo encounter while trying to save John? What was his father’s advice to him and how does it help Akimbo? Can you think of a time that you were able to solve a difficult problem? Tell me about it.

Interested in this book? Click here for link to the audiobook.

If you want to enjoy more African adventures with Akimbo check out other books in this series, Akimbo and and the Snakes and Akimbo and the Lions.

Publication Details: First U.S. Book Edition: New York: Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2006. Audiobook: Prince Frederick, Md.: Recorded Books, 2007. Narrated by the author.

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