Snip Snapped

Snip Snap: What’s That? by Mara Bergman; illustrated by Nick Maland

Due to different schedules and July 4th, I haven’t had to do my regular Wednesday story time in a couple weeks, which means I haven’t been able to try out anything new recently. So today, I’ll talk about an oldie but a goodie. And ‘oldie’ isn’t really fair, since this was published only seven years ago and in the scheme of children’s publishing that could almost be considered hot off the press. But still, when everyone is so obsessed with what’s new, some titles get left behind if they fly under the radar, as this one does. Which is too bad really, because, in my opinion, this is one of the best story time books ever.

Now, when it comes to great picture books, there are primarily three types: 1) Great Stories, 2) Great Read-Alouds, and 3) Ones that are both combined. Snip Snap doesn’t really fall into the third category because, as stories go, it’s probably not the most original and isn’t incredibly inspirational or anything like that. It’s just a story about some kids who hide from an alligator and then promptly chase it out of their home when they get frustrated with being scared. This is probably why it doesn’t get a lot of love when people go around talking about their favorite picture books.

When it comes to the second category however, the great read-alouds, there are few that can top it. I’ve worn our personal copy thin through using it so much for story time over the years and I still find little ways to share it with kids each time I read it. The rhythmic prose is excellently paced and there isn’t an awkward syllable to be found. It’s a pet peeve of mine when you are reading a story that’s clearly attempting some sort of rhythmic meter and the author squeezes in syllables that don’t fit because they didn’t take the time to think of a better word, leaving those of us reading it little speed bumps to stumble over as we go along. None of that here. You could pick this book up as a first-time story reader and people would think you were an old pro. The words are that fluid.

Also, you could read this story however you like and it sounds good. I personally go for a quiet, scary, whisper that draws kids in close and allows for fun thrills whenever something jumpy happens but I’ve heard others do it louder and with more gusto that is just as much fun. I even had a fellow librarian tell me she sang this one to her story time kids one time and had a blast.

Maland’s pictures begin this story on the title page with an open manhole cover, which confuses some kids who aren’t from the city but I tell them it’s where alligators hide sometimes (which got me in trouble with one mother one time when her three year old saw the only manhole cover in our town and got scared that an alligator was coming to get him).

The story continues on the dedication page with a brilliant illustration of a city street that has alligator footprints going along the pavement and a man running in terror, umbrella flying and everything, down an alley. This is one of my favorite pages in the book because here I can begin asking kids if they see the alligator. Of course they don’t (he isn’t there) but eventually they notice the footprints and start calling out. If they see the man, that always adds for some early laughs.

On the next page the footprints have padded into an apartment lobby and here again I can ask the kids if they see the alligator; when they notice his tail going up the stairs they start getting nervous- in a fun way. The text starts on the next page with the wonderful “When the alligator came creeping, creeping, creeping up the stairs…” and here I’ll leave it to you to come up with your own unique way of sharing the story. I’m sure you’ll do great.

This book pairs well with almost anything but I primarily use it for alligator/crocodile themed stories like Crocodile Beat or Guji Guji, or in a “Handle our fears” themed story time with classics like Mercer Mayer’s There’s a Nightmare in My Closet (or, more appropriately, There’s an Alligator Under My Bed), Mo Willems Leonardo the Terrible Monster, and Meg Rosoff’s Jumpy Jack and Googily (another perennial favorite of mine that I’m sure you’ll hear about on this blog eventually).

I hope you have fun using this book; it almost always ends in applause whenever I close the cover on the final “Snip, Snap,” and if anyone ever asks of someone who heard it, “Were the Stories Good?” the answer is most definitely “You bet they were!”

P.S. Check out those links, particularly the Mercer Mayer and Mo Willems ones, they take you to some funny videos on YouTube.

Oh, and here’s a link to a book trailer for Snip Snap made by my wonderful friend, and fellow library-student Kristen Street.


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