What the Snakes Wrote
Written by Hazel Hutchins
Illustrated by Tina Holdcroft
While Rufus, the farmdog, stands guard next to his doghouse, with chickens in the background and a cat’s silhouette in the window, he notices that snakes were lying in the dirt in oddly-shaped patterns. Unbeknownst to Rufus, the “shapes” were actually letters and spelled out “dog.”
Rufus decides to go on patrol of the farmyard, since the farmer is busy taking care of a hole he discovered in a field, and Rufus encounters the pigs, cows, and horse, and lots more snakes, coiled in more fascinating shapes. When Rufus saves the snakes from impending danger of a vehicle, he thinks the farmyard returns to normal. However, many other snakes emerge and contort into some kind of message.
Rufus finally fetches the farmer, and eventually the farmer reads the snakes’ message: Save Our Home. The farmer was unwittingly covering up the snakes’ den with his attempt to fill the hole in the field. With a happy ending for the snakes, the farmer, and Rufus, the author delightfully emphasizes the need to respect the habitats of animals, allowing them to coexist with humans…and dogs!
This is a really fun book for students who are making the connection between the written letter and the formation of words. The illustrations are clever and friendly, as all the animals appear to be smiling at the reader, including the snakes. Mid- to late-first grade readers can read the book alone and will enjoy recognizing the words that the snakes script in the dirt.
First or second grade teachers can incorporate this charming book into a number of lessons or unit studies: farms and farm animals, animals and their habitats, reptiles, animal appreciation, or letter recognition. Included in the back of the book are two pages of additional information about snakes, meant to be read aloud by a teacher or parent.
Author Hutchins and author/illustrator Holdcroft have contributed many other books to the children’s literature genre and have garnered picture book awards.
A creative follow-up to this story might include offering dough or clay in a center and encouraging the children to roll the dough into “snakes” and then spell words with the snake-shapes for a friend to read.
- TITLE: What the Snakes Wrote
- AUTHOR: Hazel Hutchins
- ILLUSTRATOR: Tina Holdcroft
- PUBLISHER: Annick Press
- REVIEWER: Julie Lavender
- EDITION: Paperback, 32 p.
- ISBN: 978-1-55451-472-4
- GENRE: Contemporary