Snakes are not beloved by most gardeners but they play an important part in the natural world including our gardens. Gail Gibbons’ non-fiction book, Snakes, presents an abundance of information about snakes that creates a positive image and makes them less scary. Written for readers from seven years old and up the book helps young and old readers readers alike appreciate the virtues of these unique reptiles.
A brief lesson on the role of snakes in history begins the text and is followed by presentations on their geographical distribution, anatomy, methods of movement, food getting, reproduction, and enemies. We learn, for example, that snakes have no outer ears but have inner ears that pick up vibrations, how snakes perceive scents with their forked tongue and Jacobson’s organ, and that most snakes lay eggs but some produce live young. Six pages are devoted to showing groups of various harmless snakes, venomous snakes, and constrictors. The effect of people moving into the natural environments of snakes and the existence of wildlife preserves for endangered snakes are briefly mentioned. A page of interesting miscellaneous facts about snakes concludes the work.
The book is well illustrated with pen and watercolor pictures, diagrams, and maps. Terms such as herpetologist, hibernate, and carnivorous are introduced and defined in the course of the text. The amount of factual information presented is enormous and will naturally lead to many readings of the book by anyone who is interested in snakes. This book is a very good introduction to snakes but would be better if it included more on the benefits of snakes to man.