Why do we pick the books we do? I chose A Gathering of Garter Snakes, with text and photographs by Bianca Lavies (Dutton Children's Books, 1993), at the library because:
1. The youngest member of our family asked for a book about snakes.
2. The cluster of garter snakes on the cover completely grossed me out, making it highly likely that it would appeal to the family member mentioned in #1, above.
3. A higher-than-usual eccentricity factor. Examples:
a) On one page, the text reads, "...Mrs. Margaret Lillequist does not have a problem with snakes. She likes them. In fact, she prepares dinner while a red-sided garter snake she calls George looks on." George is lying on some carrots.
b) The book is dedicated to the author's pet garter snake Frederica.
A Gathering of Garter Snakes is non-fiction, geared toward the early elementary school set. I read it aloud to the home crowd, and it was a hit. Gathering concerns a place in Manitoba where ten thousand or so garter snakes spend the winter in a big pit. This mass hibernation is unusual, as you'll find out. Your and yours will also learn a lot about "the physical characteristics, behavior, and life cycle of the red-sided garter snake," as the book's description promises. The full-page photographs are vivid, to say the least: snake births, shedded skins, a glimpse of a frog arm disappearing down a snake gullet, and so on. The snake lover at your house is likely to love it.