LONGLIST REVIEW: I (Don’t) Like Snakes

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Slithering… tongue flicking… unblinking… scaly and shiny.

What’s to like about snakes?

You’d be surprised…

Some families have pet cats, dogs, rabbits and fish.  But this family has pet snakes and they love them. That is everyone, except for one.  ‘I (Don’t) Like Snakes’ follows a young girl as she explains her dislikes and fears about the slithery creatures that share her home.  As her family help her to learn the truths about snakes, she begins to see them in an entirely different light.

Each double-spread contains a mix of fiction and non-fiction – fiction normally sitting on the left page, with non-fiction on the right.  Both genres sit perfectly alongside each other providing the facts and science to counteract the child’s misconceptions and phobias. When the child says she does not like snakes because they slither, her mum tells her why snakes need to slither.  This is the developed on the right side of the page with explanation about different types of slithering that snakes can do – concertina slithering, serpentine slithering and even the caterpillar crawl. Snakes can even side-wind, twine, climb, fly and swim!  The girl’s parents help her to understand that snakes are not slimy but in fact dry.  This is accompanied by the information text that provides detail about how snakes shed their skin. This continues with the youngster discovering about why snakes are scaly, their flicky tongues and their starring eyes. As she learns more and more, the girl begins to find the snakes interesting and rather clever. She even begins to like them – a little bit.

Helpfully, her brother then shares with her how snakes kill things! But it turns out that he can not make his sister not like snakes.  She has even found out some information of her own about the hissing reptiles and shares what she has learned with her brother. It turns out that snakes may be slithering… tongue flicking… unblinking… scaly and shiny… and snaky… but they are also beautiful!

This is a unique information text, presented like a picture book but filled with fascinating facts and scientific details.  The illustrations are a complete blend of colourful, lively cartoons that complement the narrative perfectly, and accurate observational drawings of snakes, along with cross sections and labelled diagrams. The information within the book is simple enough for young children to understand yet still providing enough detail and variety that it would be a good basis for research and furthering understanding. The illustrations show the girl and her family researching and discovering about snakes in many different ways – discussing, observing, reading books, finding information online – modelling excellent and vey valued skills that all children are encouraged to use in the classroom.

Children could easily mimic this style of text, taking other phobias and using the facts to help alleviate them. The simple narrative is mostly dialogue based so would be an excellent opportunity to practice speech punctuation, children could take their own phobia or a fear that others have which they would like to change – I Don’t Like Spiders… Bees… Dogs… Beetles… Birds.  Children could use this text and, with further research, produce a non-chronological report on snakes or even a balanced discussion on whether or not snakes make good pets.  They could also produce a persuasive piece – poster, film, letter – aimed at changing someone’s dislike into a like.  The book shows that facts are needed to support the case and prove that your point of view is valid. 

‘I (Don’t) Like Snakes’ is a breath of fresh air with its wonderful blend of cartoons, narrative and scientific fact.  It’s unusual, unthreatening presentation provides a wealth of information and details to make reader think about snakes in a whole new light, without being overwhelming.

'I (Don't) Like Snakes' by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Luciano Lozano

Walker Books     ISBN: 978-1406365689