cover image The Boy Who Swallowed Snakes

The Boy Who Swallowed Snakes

Laurence Yep. Scholastic, $14.95 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-590-46168-9

Little Chou leads a poor but honest life with his widowed mother. When he comes across a basket of silver, he tries to return it, but the owner refuses, knowing that the silver is tainted by the curse of an evil ku snake. Determined not to inflict the snake on others, Little Chou bravely swallows it. But more snakes spring from him, lighting up the sky like meteors--followed by more eating and still more snakes. Finally the reptiles visit their judgment on their greedy previous owner, while Little Chou and his mother reap the fruits of his unselfishness and courage. Yep's original folktale neatly balances magic and mystery with sprightly humor: as Little Chou dutifully gathers the multiplying snakes for consumption one evening, his mother hands him a rice bowl and chopsticks, commenting tartly, ``Evil or not, you might as well eat them like a civilized person.'' The Tsengs follow suit: their expressive watercolors capture both the spooky iridescence of the slithery creatures and the comic aspects of the boy's matter-of-fact determination to eat as many of them as he must. For the reader, as for Little Chou, this proves rewarding fare indeed. Ages 5-9. (Feb.)