CM . . .
. Volume XV Number 15 . . . . March 20, 2009
Snake Bite is a high interest book aimed at reluctant readers. It uses the potential danger of being bitten by venomous snakes as a hook to draw in the target audience. Snake Bite is divided into 15 short sections, each comprised of two facing pages. All but two of these sections use, in addition to the two or more pictures shown, diagrams and information callouts to complement the text.
The book begins with an introduction to venomous snakes and the number of people killed by these snakes worldwide each year. From there, the book explains what makes venomous snakes dangerous, followed by an explanation of different types of venom.
The book also contains a list of venomous snake top killers and profiles two different venomous snakes: the King Cobra, not on the list of top killers, and the Black Mamba, which is on the list.
The book then moves on to Pythons, followed by a section explaining the way snakes eat. Snake Bite then gives an explanation as to why snakes bite and how to survive a snake bite. The book concludes with a section on antivenoms, ways to avoid being bit, and the obligatory conservation message. Finally, there is a vocabulary section and a brief bit on snakes as pets.
First the positive, and there is a fair bit of it. The pictures and diagrams are excellent, providing easy to understand information as well as reader motivation. My favourite example of the latter is a picture of a man, with pursed lips, bending over a snake. This picture stopped more then one passer-by in his/her tracks, accompanied by a need to read the accompanying text. This, however, is only one example of several that had similar effects.
As well, the book does contain a fair number of web links that are both age appropriate and interesting, something that can not be said for many of the books out there.
The text is also a high point, at least to the point that, while it is short and simple, it does contain some challenging words. These words are then presented in such a manner that the reader will want to figure them out.
However, paradoxically, the text can also be seen as a weak point. There is a noticeable lack of flow through the book. While each section reads well as an individual piece, from a textual standpoint, there is very little to draw the reader on. The insertion of a section on Rock Pythons into a book called Snake Bite is a mystery as well. This is especially true when this is the only section devoted to non-venomous snakes. The only reason for its inclusion that I could see was that the publisher had a really cool picture of a Rock Python wrapped around a crocodile that they wanted to use.
The inclusion of "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin is, for lack of a better word, "interesting." I would have preferred instead to have seen a profile of one of the many people who farm snakes for their venom. Someone who is involved in the fascinating occupation of milking snakes for their venom would have been a better choice, in my opinion. This is especially true in light of Irwin's often controversial approach to dangerous creatures.
While these negatives need to be pointed out, they do not in any way mean that this is not an excellent book for the target audience. I would not hesitate to hand this book to any of the reluctant readers I have worked with, especially the boys. It is clearly a book that would make an excellent addition to any school library.
Bruce Dyck, who lives in Winnipeg, MB, is currently employed by his wife and two sons as a stay-at-home dad.
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