Ojai author young at art
By Kelly Feser Eells
Carter Crocker has more than
an alliterative name; he also has a knack for literature - kids'
literature, especially. "The Tale of the Swamp Rat,"
released Sept. 15 by *Books, is Crocker's first "children's
But it isn't the Ojai resident's first foray into the world of
juvenile fiction. He was a staff writer for Walt Disney Television
for 13 years, earning two Emmys and a Humanitas Award for his
work on "The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh."
Crocker lived in Burbank for 10 years, moving to Ojai in 2002.
"The L.A. congestion finally got to be too much. And we
decided that there seems no hope that it'll ever, can ever, be
solved. Also," he adds, explaining his move to the valley,
"there's the fact that I was born in the South. I had a
more open, spread-out childhood (there.) And I wanted my own
children, ages 8 and 10, to know the pleasure of it."
Crocker has been writing professionally for more than 20 years,
primarily in the children's animation business. Since leaving
Walt Disney Television in 2000, he has enjoyed success as a free-lancer
on such projects as "Clifford, the Big Red Dog," for
which he wrote two episodes, "Sabrina's Secret Life"
(DIC Entertainment) and "Merlin the Enchanter" (XD
But, "It was that old frustration of never having one's
writing survive intact," he laughs, "that finally got
me to write this book."
Crocker notes that "The Tale of the Swamp Rat" fits
the family, i.e., "read aloud," genre to a T (think
"Stuart Little," "Wind in the Willows," "Jungle
Book," and every G-rated thing Shel Silverstein ever wrote
- including Johnny Cash's "A Boy Named Sue" ditty.)
"I wanted to write the sort of book that older children
could read on their own, and parents could share with younger
children," says Crocker.
And he has. In its Fall 2003 Book Review section, Kid's Center
(www.e-kidscenter.com) describes the book as being perfect for
"reading aloud on a blustery winter's weekend. And we mean
'weekend' because, once you begin 'The Tale of the Swamp Rat'
you will be pressured to read it right on through all 200 pages."
Indeed, the story of how title rodent, Ossie, lost his family
to " Mr. Took, the evilest of rattlesnakes," is the
sort of page-turner that will give young and old alike an excuse
to stay in their pajamas all day long.
"I tried to keep the chapters short and manageable, and
relatively self-contained. At the same time, I hoped to keep
a compelling narrative drive going," Crocker explains.
He succeeds; or rather, Mole, the book's narrator, succeeds.
Like Brer Rabbit, Mole is a classic Southern yarn spinner, winking
from the tale's outset that he'll "get it right - and what
parts of the story he doesn't know, he'll make up."
Characters like Will, "the ancient and wise alligator"
who saved Ossie from Mr. Took, and Prophet Bubba, "a half-cracked
bird who is revered as an oracle," are at once recognizable
and familiar - the sort of "folk" everyone knows or
Were Crocker's own children an inspiration?
"My daughters didn't exactly 'help' with the book,"
he smiles. "But I never could have written it without them.
Bits and pieces of their personalities - and those of many of
my friends - were 'borrowed' for characters in the book."
Released Sept. 15 through Philomel Books at Penguin-Putnam, "The
Tale of the Swamp Rat" is a fun read. No matter how old
The Ojai Valley News
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