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All That Slithers

15798718I was so eager to read Python ($15.99, Candlewick Press, Ages 5-8) because I am fascinated with the pythons that have invaded the Florida Everglades near my home. In fact, my husband even participated in the 2013 Python Challenge hosted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (though he did not catch any snakes). These reptiles, which are not natural to Florida, have become a real threat to our native species as they have multiplied in large numbers and prey upon baby alligators, birds and many other species. Most are a result of people releasing their pet snakes into the wild when they can no longer care for them.


A photo I took several years ago in the Everglades. This time it was the gator who got the python, as he was protecting his (partially eaten) catch.

Now about the book . . .

Python author, Christopher Cheng, created a zoo mobile near his home in Sydney, Australia so native Australian animals could be transported to schools. What a wonderful way for students to learn about the species endemic to their region. Cheng also taught at a zoo for eight years, so it’s no wonder that Python is a most informative book.

In this story about how a female Australian Diamond Python spends her day, we learn about her habitat, diet, how she molts, lays eggs and so much more. Did you know that pythons do not crush their prey? They suffocate it, because it would be difficult for them to eat an animal with broken bones.

I was pleasantly surprised that the book even shows how a python catches and eats a rat. Although the targeted audience for the book is as young as age five, I think it’s important for readers to understand how animals in the wild survive even when it’s a bit unpleasant.

The watercolor illustrations by Mark Jackson are terrific. And in the back of the book is a page of fascinating facts about these snakes. There’s even an index.  I love the fact that readers are introduced to so many words they’ve probably never seen before like: ectothermic; keratin; hatchlings and ambush.

Python is so informative as well as interesting to read and look at with its wonderful pictures. I am sure this book will get many kids interested in learning more about snakes in general and other critters that lurk in the wild.

– Reviewed by Debbie Glade

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Slithering Snake Science

Debbie Glade pursues her thirst for scientific knowledge with this great book from Chicago Review Press.

Once again, I find myself with an amazing non-fiction children’s book from Chicago Review Press on my lap that I can’t put down. Awesome Snake Science: 40 Activities for Learning About Snakes ($14.95, Chicago Review Press, ages 9 -12) by author and naturalist, Cindy Blobaum, helps children appreciate these intriguing reptiles that are so often feared.

Like all other Chicago Review Press books for kids I’ve read, parents and teachers will benefit greatly from reading this book too. Readers learn about different species of snakes, where to find them, the anatomy of them, how they survive, why and how they strike and how they defend themselves.  Even the squeamish can appreciate learning fascinating facts such as this: It is common for snake teeth to get stuck in the animal it is eating and fall out, but since snakes can grow new teeth any time they need them, this is not a problem. Or how about this one? If the temperature of a snake’s body dips below 60 degrees Fahrenheit while food is in his stomach, the food will not digest. Rather it will simply rot, which may in turn poison the snake.

In addition to becoming a young herpetologist, readers can enjoy many different activities from making a research journal and making a snake spine to seeing through a snake’s eyes and testing your own tongue. All the activities use materials that are easy to find in your home and do not require any slithering thing (such as a real snake). There are wonderful photographs and illustrations throughout the book as well.

This book is a hit in many ways, but most importantly it works because it teaches readers to think like scientists, inspiring them to seek out the true facts about snakes. In turn this may help alleviate some of the fears they have about these slithering creatures and make them want to learn more. And perhaps they will one day become scientists themselves.

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