In their latest fiendish take on a maligned species, Snakes! by David T. Greenberg, illus. by Lynn Munsinger, slithery reptiles take center stage. An otherwise brave main character and his puppy find their home terrorized by "[a] hundred thousand salivating snakes!" The tone moves from ominous to playful: "Snakes as playground swings/ Snakes as teething rings." But even after he has seemingly conquered his fear, one final twist (or constriction, more precisely) awaits the boy. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
In jolly verses that beg to be read aloud, Greenberg deals with an exception to one's boastful fearlessness: snakes! "Tangled like spaghetti/ Slithering and sweaty/ Nesting in a heap beneath your bed..." slinky, oozing snakes of all horrible sorts take over the home, the car, the yard, romping though incredible adventures. The grand finale involves a boa who, as he encircles, whispers "I truly like you dear," with consequences to be pondered. A young boy and his very expressive dog make clear their reactions to the snakes involved in their various serpentine activities. Musinger's pen and ink and watercolor drawings are deliciously inventive, while holding to some representation of the species named. The action never stops, and is sure to produce comic reactions from giggles to guffaws, along with a few shudders. Another funny but a bit gross triumph from the author of Slugs. 2004, Little Brown, Ages 6 to 9.
Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Gr 1-3-Fans of Slugs! (1983), Bugs! (1997), and Skunks! (2001, all Little, Brown) will welcome this latest addition to Greenberg's gross-out canon. A boy and his terrier have no problem with wrestling squids or battling sharks, but they balk at snakes. Naturally, they are beset by every possible variety, at every possible turn. There are snakes heaped under the bed and on the stairs, and, "With a herculean grasp,/A multicolored asp/Nonchalantly shimmies up a wall." The poetry flows easily and is filled with inventive alliteration and quirky humor: "A speckled anaconda/Steals the family Honda/And races down the driveway in reverse." There is some challenging vocabulary ("pyroclastic," "phosphoresce"), but children will likely be more than willing to make the stretch. Munsinger's watercolor illustrations strike the right balance between cute and creepy as boy and dog try to evade the slithery serpents. Not an essential purchase, but fun, particularly if the other titles are popular.-Grace Oliff, Ann Blanche Smith School, Hillsdale, NJ Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
A good and creepy (slithery just doesn't capture the reason your neck hairs may stand on end) story of a boy and the uninvited snakes in his life, from Greenberg (who likes his creatures on the outre side: he has also tackled insects, skunks, and, famously, slugs). What is so effective here-other than Munsinger's swarming, snaky watercolors-is that Greenberg never gets cute, but keeps the verse highly palpable: "With a horrifying rustle / Of cartilage and muscle / Very very slowly they unwind / Tongues abruptly flickering / Whispering and snickering / They wriggle off to see what they can find." Greenberg does, however, know how to mix the fanciful with the real. "Reticulated belly snakes / sea snakes, tree snakes / Peanut-butter jelly snakes / Hyperactive flea snakes." And Munsinger wraps her considerable wit around every loopy possibility, ensnaring her readers in a final constrictor-like hold. Come, child, and enjoy a snake or two, these "pyroclastic streams of melted crayon." (Picture book. 6-8)