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Janell Cannon, creator of the wildly popular Stellaluna, turns her attention from bats to snakes in Verdi. In this enchanting picture book, a bight yellow python with sporty stripes decides he doesn't want to turn green. Why grow up if that means turning lazy, boring, and green like the adult pythons Aggie, Umbles, and Ribbon?
One day, the zippy Verdi plummets to the ground. The elder threesome gently splint him to a branch and he listens to their stories of youthful daring with astonishment. They too were once exactly like him! In a stunning spread, Verdi listens to the forest come alive. Then he observes the moon wane and grow full again. All the while he grows healthy and green. He no longer attempts to scrape away his green skin; he discovers he can still be himself. The fun-loving python is last seen teaching two youthful yellow snakes spectacular figure eights.
The book concludes with two pages of snake notes that will appeal to teachers and parents. Children learn that a snake's skin is dry, not slimy as many believe. They learn that pythons lay eggs, the ingenious methods snakes employ to capture prey, why snakes are valued by humans, and more.
Inspired by her childhood in Minnesota, Janell Cannon recalled the hordes of garter snakes that surfaced in the springtime. She and her brother would gather up armfuls of them and bring them home to their lucky mother! Cannon was further intrigued by the perching habits and lovely color of the green tree pythons at the San Diego Zoo. She said, "The radical change of color that these snakes undergo from hatching time to adulthood also provided the vehicle for the main theme of the story -fear of transition."
Cannon's award-winning first book, Stellaluna, celebrated bats and friendship. Her second book, Trupp, also garnered praise for its weaving of the fictional and the real. In Verdi, Cannon has crafted another treasure. Its canny evocation of what it's like to change, grow up, and grow old is memorably brought to life. This is a charmer of a book without the snake oil of artifice. Verdi grows comfortable in his own skin and remains true to himself. Great insights-and they are rendered with poignancy. Cannon delivers yet another artful gem that is sure to appeal to readers and critics alike.
Reviewed by Barbara Field.