Written by Christopher Cheng
Illustrated by Mark Jackson
Pythons are beautiful. Who knew? In this lyrical, non-fiction book, Cheng uses a duel narration technique. First and foremost, we follow a specific python in the bush. She suns. She hunts and misses a beautiful bird. She hunts and captures a rat. Then she prepares her food by squeezing it. Eventually, after she has digested, she will lay eggs and take care of them. The eggs hatch and small pythons appear. This is the main narrative, told with both poetry and accuracy. On most spreads, however, is another presentation of interesting facts about pythons and how their bodies work. For example: “Pythons, like all reptiles, are ectothermic. That means they acquire heat from their environment.” These factoids are set in a different font, but not a pull-out box. This choice means the book appears as a lovely single unit, with two types of text and wonderful paintings working together.
Python as a topic will instantly appeal to many kids. Snakes have always been cool to some and scary to others. Their coolness isn’t just the fact that they scare younger siblings, but also in their differentness. Snakes move differently. They’re covered in scales instead of skin or fur. They need the sun. And yet, this book emphasizes the similarities as well. Without anthropomorphizing Python, we see that when she is hungry she hunts, when she is cold and she finds a way to get warm, and when she lays her eggs, she cares for them. What she thinks about all of this, we don’t know, but we can see actions parallel to other animals and to us.
This book will fit in well to studies of reptiles in second or third grade and will make a wonderful read aloud, helping to diversify the science curriculum that often focuses on animals with fur and feathers.
Smithsonian has wonderful pictures of reptiles, including pythons:
National Geographic has links to videos of pythons and other reptiles:
- Title: Python
- Author: Christopher Cheng
- Illustrator: Mark Jackson
- Publisher: Candlewick Press
- Reviewer: Amy S. Hansen
- Hardcover: 32
- ISBN: 978-0-7636-6396-4
- Genre: nonfiction, nature