Top o' the Monday Morning, October 29th
Boo. And Happy Halloween.

Adventures with "The Snake Scientist"

In addition to re-reading some old Halloween favorites, my son and I are slowly working our way through The Snake Scientist, by Sy Montgomery. The 48-page title from 1999 is part of Houghton Mifflin's "Scientists in the Field" series, which recently issued Loree Griffin Burns' Tracking Trash. The snake scientist, one Bob Mason from Oregon State, studies the red-sided garter snakes who hibernate by the thousands in pits in Manitoba. In her book A Gathering of Garter Snakes, the former National Geographic photographer Bianca Lavies looked at the same phenomenon. Several years ago I read the Lavies book aloud repeatedly at Junior's request. He picks up our local garter snakes with ease. If they're spending the winter massed in our yard somewhere, I have no doubt that he will find them.

Montgomery's Snake Scientist is a photo-rich picture book for older readers, 10 to 14, and contains almost more text than my 8 year old's attention can handle, even in a read-aloud situation. But we keep going because the subject is fascinating. And I've pretty much agreed to a field trip to Manitoba some spring so that we, too, can be scientists in the field and watch the snakes come out of hibernation.

What snake-loving kid can resist the following intro?

You hear them before you see them. One a quiet day, as you approach one of the dens at the Narcisse Wildlife Management Area in Manitoba, Canada, you can hear a rustling like wind in dry leaves.

It's the sound of thousands of slithering snakes.

When you look over the fence into the shallow limestone pit, at first it seems as if the ground is moving. But it's not the ground—it's 18,000 red-sided garter snakes!

Other books in this series which caught my attention include The Tarantula Scientist, The Bug Scientists, and Swimming with Hammerhead Sharks. I'm planning ahead: no field trip for that last one.

Links: Professor Mason; Sy Montgomery interview at Paper Tigers; article on Snake Scientist photographer Nic Bishop at The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books;  Manitoba Conservation/Snakes of Narcisse Wildlife Management Area 


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I look and look for snakes in our woods, and never see any...but on the other hand, 18,000 sounds like a few too many for my taste!

I shall look out for this series--thanks!

Charlotte, "our" garter snakes like to sun themselves in the flower beds right in front of the house or in the rock garden. They're probably hibernating now, but look for them in sunny spots next spring.



I heard Sy Montgomery speak at the Children's Literature Institute that was held at Simmons College in July. She was wonderful! She talked about her nonfiction book for adults "The Good Good Pig." It's a great book--and one I know you would love. You have got to read it--if you haven't already! I'm giving one of my grandnephews a signed copy of Sy's "The Tarantula Scientist" for his birthday.

FYI: Sy will be speaking at Boston College at an event sponsored by the Foundation for Children's Books on Tuesday, November 6th.

Oh, I'd love to hear Sy Montgomery speak. She has had so many adventures. There are so many things happening in November that I'd love to attend, but it's one of my least flexible months, schedule-wise. Dang.

The Good Good Pig goes on my list, too! I love pigs. If I ever live on a farm, I'm getting one.

Thanks, Elaine!

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