A Pet Named Sneaker. by Joan Heilbroner. illustrated by Pascal Lemaitre. January 8, 2013. Random House. 48 pages. ISBN: 9780307975805
Sneaker is a snake who wants a home. Pete is a boy who wants a snake. After Pete brings Sneaker home from the pet store, the two become fast friends. Soon Sneaker is joining Pete at school and at the pool, surprising everyone with what he is able to do. This simple storyline is the premise of a new easy reader in the series of Cat in the Hat Beginner Books to be published next week by Random House.
This book has a classic feel, reminiscent of older Beginner Books such as Are You My Mother?, The Bike Lesson, and A Fly Went By, but without looking outdated. Pascal Lemaitre’s illustrations are colorful and playful, and the snake’s movements and facial expressions are infused with humor and personality. The text is simple, of course, but it has many amusing moments that keep things interesting. When Pete first brings Sneaker home with him, they play games called “I Am a Necktie” and “I Am Handcuffs” where Pete wears the snake in various silly ways. When Pete brings Sneaker to school, the snake becomes a part of the class, even learning how to read and write. The sense of humor is a bit pedestrian to the adult mind, but for kids, unlikely events like these are laugh-out-loud funny.
The three main parts of the story - Pete finding Sneaker, Pete taking Sneaker to school, and Pete taking Sneaker to the pool - read like three separate sections, and I wonder why they weren’t divided into short chapters as in many other easy readers. I can’t recall seeing a Beginning Reader title with those chapter divisions, so it might just be a preference of this specific publisher, but I would have liked to see more definite transitions between parts of the story. I also found myself wishing for more playful and figurative language. The text is very direct, and I found it hard to really react to the book. I liked the story, but I can see myself forgetting in a very short while.
A Pet Named Sneaker will appeal to fans of Fly Guy, Henry and Mudge, Mr. Putter and Tabby, and Mittens.
I received a digital ARC of A Pet Named Sneaker from Random House via Edelweiss.
For more about this book, visit Goodreads and Worldcat.