cover image Snake Hunt

Snake Hunt

Jill Kastner. Four Winds, $14.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-02-749395-5

One dark, autumn evening, Jesse cozies up to the fire as Granddad's tall tale of snake-wrestling falls like the gospel on her eager ears. The next day her grandmother proposes that ``you two'' go on a snake hunt for diversion--and for dinner ingredients (rattlesnake stew, Granddad has said, tastes ``just like chicken''). Jesse musters enough moxie to match her grandfather's and follows him into the woods at his sure instruction. However, when a snake-like hissing sound issues forth, it is Granddad who jumps ``higher and farther.'' The menacing noise proves to be merely the flapping wings of birds flushed from the meadow, but Granddad suggests ``those ol' birds have scared away any snakes'' and the two head home without dinner. It's left to the reader to determine if Granddad is a storyteller who likes to play games, or if his storytelling has inflated his notion of his own hunting prowess. Either way, Grandma, who has prepared a full-course meal (``just in case it rained''), is in on it, too. The mood of the narrative is similar to that of the more droll Hunting the White Cow (see above), but the art here is far more lush. These expressive oil paintings and comic side panels are among Kastner's best work ( Song for the Ancient Forest ; Night Owls ), and their theatricality is a counterpoint to the subtle humor of her words. Ages 4-7. (Sept.)