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We Can't All Be Rattlesnakes

Review

We Can't All Be Rattlesnakes

One day in the hot Arizona desert, a gopher snake was spied and then abducted by a fierce and ruthless predator. She was roughly grabbed and taken indoors, forced to live in a small box, a dead mouse thrown at her for food. The gopher snake tried to scare the predator, hissing and rattling her tail, but her captor, a young boy named Gunnar, was not impressed and kept her prisoner despite her threats and pleas.

In WE CAN'T ALL BE RATTLESNAKES, Patrick Jennings tells the tale of that wild and proud gopher snake and the boy who tries to tame her.

Gunnar names the snake Crusher and places her in a glass cage alongside his other acquisitions: a small turtle, a lizard and a tarantula. The reptiles can read each other’s thoughts and understand Gunnar's language, though not always his meaning, and are unable to discern the spider's thoughts. The turtle, Speedy, and the lizard, Rex, warn Crusher about Gunnar; he is cruel to and ignorant about the creatures he captures, and many have died of starvation in this room. Crusher begins to plan her escape, but the others doubt it can be done and suggest she come to terms with her incarceration.

Crusher soon convinces Gunnar that she is tame. She lets him handle her and is gentle with him, all the while looking for a way out. But Gunnar's treatment of her and the others is terrible, and his emotionally negligent parents do little to ensure their proper care. Instead they let him bring new reptiles and spiders in as others die and are tossed carelessly out the bedroom window. They allow him to spend his days playing violent video games and abusing the rich and amazing nature outside their door. Still, Gunnar is a lonely and sad kid, and Crusher begins to feel sorry for him. However, she tries not to let her pity foil her plans for escape.

Jennings’s story is inventive and creative, but the issues it presents are all too real. Gunnar is a child in need of direction and encouragement, and the animals are in need of protection (of body and habitat). The secondary story, of the friendship between Crusher and a mouse named Breakfast, is more fantastic but compelling and touching as well.

WE CAN'T ALL BE RATTLESNAKES has a point (or two) to make to readers but is not preachy. Instead, Jennings hits just the right entertaining note and still gets his points across. This is a thoughful chapter book with some challenging and important ideas about family, nature and cooperation.

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on January 6, 2009

We Can't All Be Rattlesnakes
by Patrick Jennnings

  • Publication Date: January 6, 2009
  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins
  • ISBN-10: 0060821140
  • ISBN-13: 9780060821142