Written by Eric A. Kimmel
Look out for hidden corn snakes! Especially if you’re afraid of them, but also if you love them and keep them as pets. Rich plots, wonderful characters, and an appealing voice make this a winner for second graders. Because the snake information will speak to boys and because the family is Muslim, this is sure to appear on reading lists for cultural diversity.
Fourth-grader Omar wants a snake, so he reads everything he can find about choosing and keeping snakes. His biggest problem: his mother is deathly afraid of snakes, and Omar is a responsible and respectful son. He approaches the family as a whole and convinces his mother he can handle the restrictions she puts on his project. He sets up the perfect habitat, then enlists his father’s help in locating his snake. The Snake Dude he befriends is surprisingly open and supportive, in spite of his odd appearance. An unfortunate convergence of events gives Arrow, the snake, an escape opportunity. Only then does Omar realize just how paralyzing his mother’s fear is. Omar’s mother discovers the source of her phobia in war-torn Beirut as a girl. Both Omar and his mother decide they’ve been selfish, but Arrow is the winner in this charming tale.
Given themes that include terror and phobias, it’s probably best to read aloud and discuss with second graders. But there is a lot for them to relate to. Reading activities can include finding out more about snakes, pet care, Muslim families, phobias, and living conditions in certain Muslim countries. Ambitious classroom teachers might consider a snake habitat – or other creature – for a class project.
Visit Eric A. Kimmel’s website: www.ericakimmel.com