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We Can't All Be Rattlesnakes Paperback – January 6, 2009

4.5 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Grade 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
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 560L (What's this?)
  • Series: AWARDS: Louisiana Young Reader's Choice Awards 2012 Grades 3-5
  • Paperback: 121 pages
  • Publisher: HarperColl; 1 edition (January 6, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060821140
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060821142
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.8 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,378,056 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
A book told from the perspective of a gopher snake captured and kept by a slovenly and disgruntled boy. This is a great concept. The snake gradually begins to have sentiment for other creatures, and even begins to care about her captor. Great ending.

Some good puns - the breakfast cereal is Quasimod-O's. The mouse is named Breakfast.

Parent notes: Negligent parents, the boy has violent outbursts, and he tortures living creatures. Also starves them to death. Callous disregard for life - and that's the humans! Language: Good God, shut up, shut up, Eat me! (as a put-down), shut up, God Dad, shut up, This sucks, sucks, sucks, Jeez, shut up. It's not every page of the book, but it is unavoidable.

If you are looking for a better book told from the pet's perspective, try Betty G. Birney's Humphrey series. We liked them even better then Beverly Cleary's "The Mouse and the Motorcycle" Also, check out E.B. White's "The Trumpet of the Swan" - another wild creature that interacts with people.
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Format: Paperback
My third grade daughter brought this home from her school library and was super excited to read it. However, the language is so disrespectful with numerous phrases like "shut up", "shut your hole" even a "damnit" thrown in for good measure. There is one part of the book that refers to the father of the boy as "dim". Fathers are put-down enough in our culture and our kids don't need to see fathers referred to in this way even if it is just a snake saying it. Why put this stuff in a book designed for young readers? Certainly the concept of the book could have been maintained without modeling such disrespectful language. In fairness to the author, I think some of the objectionable references in the book are intended as sarcasm. However, I don't think your average third grader is going to really understand that it is sarcasm. She stopped reading it part way through and we both agreed there are better choices out there.
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Format: Paperback
Talking animals. They're great. Where would we be without our "Charlotte's Web", our "The Wind in the Willows" or our "Babe The Gallant Pig"? Kids like to imagine their pets with rich inner lives. I think the recent success of books like "The Warriors" by Erin Hunter are evidence enough of that. And titles where kids capture and befriend wild animals? Whether you're talking about "Rascal" or "Wings", we're all familiar with the set-up. Child (usually a boy) finds and adopts a wild animal, usually injured. The two bond and then comes the painful separation at the end. Sniff snuck you're done. I imagine Patrick Jennings looking at such stories with a wry smile on his face. I mean, sure it sounds nice when you're talking about the bond between warm-blooded creatures. So what happens when a boy catches a snake with the sole purpose of seeing it kill and destroy other creatures? And what if we're getting all this from the snake's point of view as it desperately attempts to figure out a means of escape?Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
My kids loved this book. I read it aloud to 4 of my children, ages 8,9,9, and 12. Not only did they enjoy it and laugh out loud, so did I. I would have enjoyed reading this book for myself, and I would have still been laughing out loud. Enough said!
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Format: Paperback
One day in the hot Arizona desert, a gopher snake was spied and then abducted by a fierce and ruthless predator. She was roughly grabbed and taken indoors, forced to live in a small box, a dead mouse thrown at her for food. The gopher snake tried to scare the predator, hissing and rattling her tail, but her captor, a young boy named Gunnar, was not impressed and kept her prisoner despite her threats and pleas.

In WE CAN'T ALL BE RATTLESNAKES, Patrick Jennings tells the tale of that wild and proud gopher snake and the boy who tries to tame her.

Gunnar names the snake Crusher and places her in a glass cage alongside his other acquisitions: a small turtle, a lizard and a tarantula. The reptiles can read each other's thoughts and understand Gunnar's language, though not always his meaning, and are unable to discern the spider's thoughts. The turtle, Speedy, and the lizard, Rex, warn Crusher about Gunnar; he is cruel to and ignorant about the creatures he captures, and many have died of starvation in this room. Crusher begins to plan her escape, but the others doubt it can be done and suggest she come to terms with her incarceration.

Crusher soon convinces Gunnar that she is tame. She lets him handle her and is gentle with him, all the while looking for a way out. But Gunnar's treatment of her and the others is terrible, and his emotionally negligent parents do little to ensure their proper care. Instead they let him bring new reptiles and spiders in as others die and are tossed carelessly out the bedroom window. They allow him to spend his days playing violent video games and abusing the rich and amazing nature outside their door. Still, Gunnar is a lonely and sad kid, and Crusher begins to feel sorry for him.
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