Stripped of its locale (Sydney, Australia), its setting (a fruit and vegetable market) and the eccentricity-of its protagonist (dictionaryitis), this is another friendly lion, benevolent bear story, inventively designed and illustrated with gusto. To chase the rats that infest his stall, Ben Colley acquires a snake advertised as nonvenomous and names it Sharpur (Persian, because it's a carpet snake, but why it's a carpet snake Australians may know better than we). Sharpur forages at night until Ben forgets to latch the office door one morning; then he slithers out and terrifies the customers. Either sharpur or Ben must go, says the Chairman of the Market Board, but they are reprieved by the intercession of the other merchants who don't want to lose their efficient exterminator. ""Exonerated,"" shouts Ben, and it's only one of the new words that frost an all-too-familiar plot. You'll like Sharpur's laconic yawn, his knotted midday nap, regardless.