Snip Snap! What's That, by Mara Bergman, illustrated by Nick Maland
The Plot: An alligator chases kids; the kids are scared and run away; finally, there's no place left to run.
The Good: SS!WT is a lot of fun and a must-read.
This book has a lot of wonderful repetition; I like that for story-times, because it's fun to use; I like it for any type of storytelling (group or individual) because after the second repetition, even kids who haven't heard this book before join join right in; and when it's one on one, it helps to start practicing reading skills.
"When the alligator came creeping...creeping...creeping up the stairs... Were the children scared?"
And the answer is: "YOU BET THEY WERE", and these last four words become the chorus that every kid shouts. Part of the reason I love to use this in the library for school visits is that up till then, there's a certain amount of "sh you're in the library" going on, but this, with the kids encouraged to be loud, brings out the smiles and the giggles.
I like that the alligator is real; it's not "the kids thought it was an alligator but it's really Dad". (That said, if you want to overread this book or use it for a book discussion, discuss amongst yourselves whether the alligator does indeed represent an abusive dad, or is a representation of childhood fears of abandonment, or is the wide world outside your door.)
Fear is conquered by standing up to it; when the children finally face the alligator, the alligator takes off, with the tables turned and the alligator afraid of the children. (Was the alligator afraid? "YOU BET HE WAS.") (For those overreaders (and I'm one, also): discuss whether facing your fear is always best; discuss the likelihood of a real alligator actually running away; is the alligator now an insecure bully?)
Fear may be conquered by standing up to it, but it also works to know when to shout "alligator, you get out" or when to run like hell or lock the door because some alligators, they keep coming. (See above: is the alligator a parent, a bully, or just the world at large?)
What else did I like? You all know that I love when pictures give more of the story. Here, take a peek at the pages with copyright and dedications. Scene: a city street. Look again: are those footprints? Are they alligator footprints? That woman in the window, peeking out, looks pretty scared. And why do you think that man is running down the street, abandoning his umbrella? No words here; but the story is clear that the alligator is on the move.
I like that the kids live in an apartment; not everyone lives in a house. Plus, of course, it connects with the whole urban legend of alligators living in sewers, which is never suburban sewers, always big city sewers.
At the start, the illustrations show only bits of alligator; a foot, a tail, the mouth. Because of the fear; you cannot see the whole thing. You don't see the alligator as a whole, until the children are triumphant and the alligator running away. (Discuss amongst yourself about fearing fear itself, the unknown being scarier than the real thing, and what you would do if an alligator came up your apartment steps.)
Thanks to Book Moot and Adrienne for sharing this great read aloud.