cover image I Need a Snake

I Need a Snake

Lynne Jonell, Lynne Tonell. Putnam Publishing Group, $12.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-399-23176-6

From the team that produced Mommy Go Away! comes a story for slightly older readers. Robbie yearns for a snake, but his mother won't grant his wish. She's unsuccessful at mollifying him with the usual parenting tactics--giving him a book about snakes, taking him to the reptile section of a museum, stopping at a pet store--but her refusal turns out to have a silver lining. Robbie, drawing on his imagination, conjures up a zoo of snakes from his mother's shoelace, his sister's jump rope and his father's leather belt. ""I still think they are scary,"" says Mommy at the conclusion. ""That's why you need me,"" Robbie sagely replies. Jonell understands the passions of boyhood (""Why does the snake eat the mouse headfirst?"" asks Robbie with a sweet smile as Mommy ""looks slightly sick""), and her observations harbor a dry wit that parents will recognize. Mathers's crayoned, stick-figure characters (placed in more detailed settings than in Mommy Go Away!), effectively telegraph the story's more complicated action and emotion. For example, after Mommy denies him a snake at the pet shop, the boy's simple dot eyes register utter despondency as they peer over the edge of a bus window. But while adults will appreciate the sophistication underlying Mathers's work, some audience members may dismiss the style she adopts here as babyish. Ages 4-8. (May)