Monday, March 23, 2009

Nonfiction Monday - Slither and Crawl

My 8 year-old is a dinosaur lover, so it's no surprise that we also read a boatload of books on reptiles. Jim Arnosky's latest book, Slither and Crawl: Eye to Eye With Reptiles, provides just the right mix of eye candy (LOVE the illustrations!) and information for reptile lovers of all ages. Honestly, the Komodo Dragon on the cover alone was enough to make ME want to jump right in!

Let me say right off that I love snakes. I had a pet snake in my classroom and miss him terribly. I also had mice, a hamster, rabbit, turtle, and an aquarium full of fish. The snake was the one creature that always served to terrify and delight. What is it about snakes and other reptiles that we find so fascinating? Arnosky mentions this fascination in his introduction. The book opens this way.
Growing up in Pennsylvania, I dreamed of wild places where snakes slithered across jungle trails, lizards climbed on twisted branches of trees, and alligators crawled out of the water onto lush green banks. Reptiles have always captured my imagination in a way no other animals do.
Arnosky continues from here to describe the basic features of reptiles and the animals included in this class. He then describes how he observed reptiles in the wild and ends with this note.
You can get a close-up view of all the reptiles in this book just by looking at my life-size paintings. So belly down on the ground, eye to reptilian eye, and read all about these fascinating animals that slither and crawl.
A turn of the page takes readers to the first animals—snakes. On the left side of the page is a life-like illustration of a banded water snake hanging from a tree. The facing page is actually a fold-out. The outside of the fold shows a number of black and white sketches of snakes, a snake skull (rattlesnake with large fangs!), snake scales, and snake heads (with a focus on shape). These pictures surround text that provides information about snakes. Here are some of the things I learned about snakes.
  • There are more than 2500 species of snakes in the world.
  • A wide triangular head usually means a snake is venomous.
  • Scales on a snake's back can be smooth or keeled (having a ridge down the center).
  • Scales on the belly, back and head make a snake's body waterproof.
The inside fold contains 12 illustrations of a variety of snakes in actual size. Some snakes are simply labeled, while others have a bit of information included. For example, beneath Northern Water Snake is says "Water snakes will bite without warning."

The next section of the book is on lizards, and also contains a fold-out with life-sized drawings of 13 different species. What follows is a double-page spread of gigantic lizards, featuring close-up views of the Komodo Dragon and Rhinoceros Iguana (so named for the hornlike bump on its forehead). Next is some general information about reptiles and where they go in winter, followed by a page on turtles, and a double-page spread containing 11 life-size turtle illustrations. My favorite is the very regal-looking Giant Tortoise of the Galapagos Islands.

The next two sections both contain fold-outs, the first on sea turtles and the second on crocodiles and alligators. The fold-out for this last section only contains one life-size picture, that of an American Crocodile and her young. The crocodile pictured is "more than 11 feet in length and 3 feet wide at the midsection."

The book ends with a section on the richness of reptiles. With over 6000 species, they can be found living in every ocean and on every continent but Antarctica. The final page contains a brief author's note, a list of books for further reading, and a table of metric equivalents for all the measurements mentioned in the text.

This is a highly accessible, engaging text that is accompanied by gorgeous illustrations. You should expect to hear plenty of oohs and aahs as the pages are opened and turned. I thoroughly enjoyed this look at reptiles and know young readers will too. I highly recommend it.

Book: Slither and Crawl: Eye to Eye With Reptiles
Author/Illustrator: Jim Arnosky
Publisher: Sterling
Date Published: 2009
32 pages
Source of Book:
Review copy received from publisher.

This post was written for Nonfiction Monday. This week our host is Pam at MotherReader. Do stop by and see what others are sharing in the world of nonfiction today.


  1. that blog almost made me like snakes.
    but not really.
    great writing.

  2. This looks like a great book. I know a few dinosaur and reptile lovers who would enjoy this.