Reviews for We Can't All Be Rattlesnakes

Booklist Reviews 2009 February #2
When a sweaty boy named Gunnar makes an unsuccessful grab for a gopher snake, the reptile (soon to be called Crusher) confesses, "Humans give me the creeps. They are so slimy." Unfortunately, Gunnar captures Crusher and places her in a terrarium in his bedroom. The captive snake spends her days observing Gunnar s sad life, communicating telepathically with other animals (notably a lizard and a tortoise) held captive in the room and plotting her escape. Along the way she develops previously foreign emotions, such as sympathy, compassion, and maybe even love. Honest in its portrayal of a thoughtless and apparently heartless child who is largely ignored and undisciplined by his parents, the first-person narrative contains some sad and even grim scenes, yet there s a good deal of humor in the book as well. The snake makes an entertaining (if understandably snarky) narrator, whose point of view gives the story a distinctive slant and makes its conclusion fitting as well as surprising. Copyright 2009 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2009 #2
"Crusher" is the name Gunnar gives the gopher snake he catches and adds to his collection of exotic animals, but he doesn't know his snake at all, not even its gender. Through Crusher's wry narration, readers get to know her and to hear her view of "lower life form" Gunnar as she tries to figure out this new and puzzling world. Her fellow prisoners in nearby cages, a tortoise and a lizard, offer advice and warnings telepathically, but Crusher must sort out most of the strange customs for herself. She wonders about the purpose of the "box" Gunnar focuses on nonstop ("maybe the boxes communicated telepathically with one another, maybe at the humans' behest?") and is baffled that creatures powerful enough to control nature (by use of refrigerators and windows) are so ignorant and cruel. Crusher's adventures and her gradual development of compassion for Breakfast, the live mouse in her cage, and even for Gunnar himself work together with the hilarious satire on modern American life to give this terrific child appeal but also a lot of room for discussion. Copyright 2009 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2008 November #2
Like a Dick King-Smith tale with a bit more bite--and a certain amount of biting--this animal-narrated episode casts a satiric light on human behavior but leaves room for compassion, too. Captured and plunked into a bedroom tank by Gunnar, a horrible child given to tantrums, a gopher snake he dubs "Crusher" struggles to comprehend her weird new world while determinedly setting her mind on escape. Rejecting the resigned claims of the tortoise and the lizard in adjacent tanks that death is the only escape, Crusher resolves to play "tame" and bide her time. Proud of her wildness, though, she also goes on a hunger strike--which is severely tested when Gunnar drops "Breakfast," a live white mouse, into her tank. In time Crusher is surprised to realize that Breakfast has become more than just prey to her and that even Gunnar ("dumb as a duck" though he may be) deserves an occasional flicker of sympathy. Readers will enjoy her snake's-eye view of human foibles and cheer her on her way when a chance for release comes at last. (Fantasy. 10-12) Copyright Kirkus 2008 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2009 January #3

Told by Crusher, a gopher snake, this pointed story might encourage middle-graders to rethink their relationships to any pets that are incarcerated in cages. Briefly mistaken for a rattlesnake, the venomless Crusher is caught by Gunnar, "an oily, filthy, fleshy human child" who displays an outsize insensitivity to his collection of creatures. Gunnar's mother, who never follows through on either threats or promises, and his uninvolved father do not build a strong case for the humans in this tale, although their characterizations explain a lot about Gunnar's expectations of his "pets." Advised by Gunnar's other captive reptiles, Crusher decides that her best chance at freedom lies in pretending to be fully domesticated; the trouble is, she begins to feel sorry for Gunnar. While the interspecies dialogue doesn't reach the heights of James Howe's Bunnicula comedies, the humor here is more acerbic and the focus more squarely on the human interactions. Ages 8-12. (Jan.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2009 February

Gr 4-6--After being captured by "an oily, filthy, fleshy human child" named Gunnar, a female gopher snake gets an up-close view of the human world. Christened Crusher by her captor, the snake communicates telepathically with the other reptiles in his room and learns that the boy has a bad track record with his pets, soon losing interest in them and becoming absorbed in his video games. Crusher at first refuses to eat any food Gunner provides and even befriends the live mouse he brings her--Breakfast. At first standoffish, Crusher attempts to act tame in order to get an opportunity to escape; at the same time, she begins to develop compassion for both her human and animal companions. Crusher is a compelling narrator, her voice dripping with sarcasm. Although some of the minor characters, such as Gunnar's friends, are not fully developed, kids are not likely to notice. They'll be too busy enjoying Crusher's commentary on human habits and absorbing the facts about snakes that are seamlessly integrated into the narrative. They will also come away with the message that wild animals don't make good pets. Give this to readers who enjoyed Anne Fine's Notso Hotso (Farrar, 2006).--Jackie Partch, Multnomah County Library, Portland, OR

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