Favorite Flukey Finds: Reptile Edition

4 Aug

Hey!  It’s time for another installment of the blog feature with the fish mascot… Fluke

I reported in an early post on this young blog about a system I created to keep myself from getting stuck in a middle grade fiction reading rut. Basically, I force myself to borrow and read a quota of books from all areas of the children’s collection (and one token YA title).  If you need a refresher, the system is outlined in thorough– perhaps exhausting– detail in Favorite Flukey Finds #1.  I carried home a new haul of books in my backpack on Thursday night.  You can see a complete list of the titles I chose by clicking on the photo below :

Flukey Stash 2My grasp of all areas of the children’s collection has improved since I began to do this.  An unexpected benefit has been stumbling across books that I am now wild about, books that likely would have remained unread but for my adding them to my piles.  What Favorite Flukey Finds does is highlight three (because I am too lazy to push the f-alliterating to four or five) of these discoveries, based around a theme.  The Fluke Factor rates my awareness of each title, on a scale of 1 to 5 flukes, before I read it.  The more cute, flatheaded fish, the more random a choice that book was.

This episode of Favorite Flukey Finds centers on the cold-blooded and scaly.  No, it’s not fish.  It’s Reptiles!

rattlesnakes

1.  We Can’t All Be Rattlesnakes by Patrick Jennings (Middle Grade Chapter Book)

Here is a slender little novel that packs a big punch.  Crusher is a gopher snake, which are often confused for rattlesnakes.  She has been captured by a boy named Gunnar and added to his sad bedroom menagerie of neglected lizards and turtles.  At first, Crusher is furious she has lost her freedom to a greasy, oily, allegedly ‘domesticated’ human boy, and she stages a hunger strike by refusing to eat the live mouse (named Breakfast) Gunnar drops into her cage.  She eventually gets crafty, and figures that if she can convince Gunnar she is tame, he’ll let down his guard and she will escape, along with Breakfast who has become an unlikely friend.

This is an animal story that hits all the right notes in all the right places.  Crusher is surely a snake, but Jennings cleverly works some ‘human’ emotions into her, like compassion and irritability, and he does it without ever dropping the ball on Crusher’s snake-i-ness, or on Breakfast’s mouse-i-ness for that matter (he’s a nervous, jumpy little guy).  Crusher finds her protectiveness towards Breakfast bewildering.  He should be nothing more than a tasty morsel to her, but he becomes something more akin to a pet, and Crusher understands more about the commitment behind taking care of pet than Gunnar does.  And how about Gunnar?  He has a complicated, troubled family life, and he’s clearly looking for something from his reptile pets he does not get from his inattentive parents.  This makes him extremely sympathetic, but the book hardly lets him off the hook for his mistreatment of the animals he imprisons.

The word that keeps popping into my head to sum up We Can’t All Be Rattlesnakes is ‘satisfying’.  It’s stirring, biological, witty, and thought-provoking, and all those adjectives blend together into a splendid, satisfying read.

Four Tiny Flukes

Fluke Factor=4 Flukes.  I remember handling it when it was on the new books shelves a couple of years ago.  I liked the cover.  When it came time to choose a book whose author’s last name starts with J, I decided to give it a shot.

Snake Blake

2.  My Snake Blake by Randy Siegel, ill. by Serge Bloch (Picture Book)

I’ll be honest.  I erroneously assumed My Snake Blake was a re-issued forgotten classic from the 1960’s or ’70’s when I pulled it off the shelf.  It uses the limited color palette and inky, loose-lined illustration style of many a title from that period.  In fact, Blake the snake picks up where that other great letter-forming contortionist, Crictor, leaves off.  Blake is a birthday present who leaps from his box when the lid is lifted, twisting his body into a ‘hello’ (the boy’s father brags, ‘I paid extra for that).  It is love at first sight between the boy and Blake.  Getting Mom to recognize Blake’s charm is another story.  Fortunately, Blake is a resourceful and talented snake who can cook, catch flies, and lick the dinner dishes clean.  My Snake Blake is a winning read-aloud about the affection shared between a child and his pet.  The jaunty, lighthearted text (Dad is especially hilarious) fittingly complements Blake’s campaign to prove himself to his new family.  I read it to first-graders and second-graders last year and they were absolutely tickled by Blake’s lovability and his smarts.

Five Tiny Flukes

Fluke Factor=5 Flukes (trumpet fanfare– maximum flukage!)  As I mentioned above, it caught my eye because it looked old-fashioned.

lizards

3.  Lizards, Frogs, and Polliwogs by Douglas Florian (Poetry)

Alright, alright, I am well aware that frogs and polliwogs are amphibians.  Allow a girl a little flexibility.  Douglas Florian has long been one of my favorite children’s poets.  He is never one to shy away from goofy wordplay, like in The Cobra: “It’s wise to stay clear / Of the dangerous cobra / All months of the year, / Including Octobra.”  Florian is comfortable with and skilled at a variety of poetic forms, and he’s not afraid to play around with them, or use them all in a single collection. Overall, I find Florian’s style concise, playful, and full of delightful hooks.  His poetry can be equally appreciated by the youngest readers, those in the upper-elementary grades, and by his grown-up fans as well (ahem).   This title, following the same concept of his Insectlopedia and Mammalabilia, offers a collection of single-paged, short poems and accompanying artwork, each based on a single species.  Treat yourselves to a sampling of a few pages here at Google Books.

Two Tiny Flukes

Fluke Factor=2 Flukes.  As I mention above, I am a longtime FOF (Fan of Florian).

Next up on Favorite Flukey Finds, scary books.  Do you have any treasured titles you found by accident?

~Catherine

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