Garter snakes use spelling skills to enlist lifesaving help. Who knew?
As the chickens peck nearby and the cat perches in a window, Rufus the farm dog is startled to see three snakes twisted into shapes that “seemed somehow familiar.” They are forming the word DOG. Another 28 snakes have spelled out, “Help please Snakes in trouble” (they can spell, but punctuation is harder). Uncertain, Rufus sets out on farmyard patrol. He herds four snakes spelling NEED out of the path of a speeding truck just in time and thinks that all is well—until he notices more snakes spelling out more words. This is a job for the farmer, who’s filling a hole. Rufus grabs the shovel and takes off across the field, the farmer in hot pursuit. The snakes have spelled out a new message—“SAVE OUR HOME”—with an arrow pointing the way. The farmer heads to his computer to look up snake facts, then sets to work. With Rufus watching, he redigs the hole, then puts a fence around it. In cold weather, snakes can avoid freezing to death by staying in the hole, he explains. The snakes spell a shoutout for Rufus, who came to their rescue—even though it’s not clear whether Rufus can read.
Strictly for reptile fans; Hutchins’ one-note tale and Holdcroft’s illustrations are both rough and unsubtle. Two appended pages of interesting snake facts are the highlights here. (Picture book. 5-8)