Friday, January 21, 2011

We Can't All Be Rattlesnakes

121 pages

     This is the cutest little book told from a gopher snake's point-of-view.  I never would have picked it up myself (big dislike for snakes) but Patrick Jennings is coming to town and I thought Groovy Girl and I should read a few of his titles.  He obviously has a thing for animals as many of his other books are animal-related, like Guinea Dog.  
     We Can't All Be Rattlesnakes begins:
I had shed a skin the day of my capture.  As always, the sloughing left me famished, so I curled up under a shady patch of creosote and eagerly awaited the first rodent to cross my path.  Gopher was at the top of my list, though I was so hungry that I'd gladly have settled for even a nasty, gristly shrew. 
A rodent did not cross my path first that morning, however.  A lower life form did: a human. (1)
     And so it goes that the human, Gunnar, captures the gopher snake, taking him out of his natural environment and thrusting him in a cage, right next to other prisoners/animals; a tarantula, a desert tortoise, and an alligator lizard.  Gunnar is a despicable boy, who loves his video games more than the animals he captures.  Oh sure, for awhile he dotes on Crusher, the name he bestows on his new pet snake, but he is not a loving caretaker.  He reminded me of the mean boy, Sid, in Toy Story-remember him!  Gunnar is more dim-witted but he is not the character we are meant to love.  I really wanted the mom to tell him "NO more animals" but she never does.  Only for the point of funny fiction I let it go!
    This book does such a marvelous job of thinking like a snake, in complex detail and Groovy Girl and I  enjoyed how Crusher deciphers the human world.  The other fantastic detail of this story is the communication that occurs between  Gunnar's "zoo"- thoughts are transferred to each other so what Crusher thinks is transmitted to the others in cages near him...other animals that he might eat if he weren't trapped in the glass box.  It's funny to hear the animals sarcastically "teach" Crusher how it's gonna be in captivity and hear how Crusher tries to work his relationship with Gunnar.   Relationships form between the animals, you could call it friendship, even with a mouse dropped into Crusher's cage meant for dinner.  The thrill of eating a mouse in captivity doesn't seem fair and the mouse and Crusher share the cage much to the great disappointment of Gunnar. 
     I plan to book talk this with my 3rd-5th grade students-my guess is it will be a hit with boys first.  It's a quick read-we finished within a week, reading a few of the 13 chapters a night. I think this would make a perfect read-aloud to show students what "voice" is; to put themselves in to another being would be a great writing assignment.   I'm anxious to now meet the author who writes such quirky stories for kids-he must be funny.  His website is funny.  He must be funny.

Patrick Jennings website
Kidsreads talks about it.
Click on the title and find it at an Indie store near you-We Can't All Be Rattlesnakes

1 comment:

Unknown said...

We have this book but haven't read it yet. When is the author coming to town?