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Book Reviews, Middle Grade Readers

WE CAN’T ALL BE RATTLESNAKES by Patrick Jennings

I had never imagined myself as a reptile.  Now I have.  And it was a surprisingly intriguing, and not altogether unpleasant, experience for me.  I have Patrick Jennings’ book WE CAN’T ALL BE RATTLESNAKES to thank for it!

This book originally popped up on my radar when it was first published in 2009 but somehow it kept getting pushed farther down on my “to read” list.  On my latest trip to the library I happened to see it on the shelf, knew it had been on my list for a while and checked it out.

I finished it in one sitting.  The narrator is a snake who is captured by a young boy to be kept as a pet.  She discovers this particular human has captured other reptiles (a tortoise and a lizard) with whom she can telepathically communicate. It is from them that she gains much of her information about her new circumstances.

Reptile facts are mixed in to dispel common misinformation.  It also addresses the issue of capturing wild animals and keeping them as pets.  One of the assets of the story is that the narrator is able to express anger and outrage about her captivity and yet, in the end, does not spew any hateful kind of venom at her boy captor, either physically or emotionally.

I enjoyed the story, itself, as well as learned things about reptiles I did not know (I have a limited knowledge of these animals in general).  I also appreciated the fact that the ending is not a typical “happily ever after” and yet it is extremely satisfying and positive.

I would not use this as a read-aloud with a group of students due to two or three word choices.  I would, however, recommend it highly as an independent read or an older child read-aloud with a parent.  A child who has a particular interest in reptiles–especially snakes–will find the book hugely enjoyable!

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