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Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in This Book)

Snappsy The Alligator (Did Not Ask To Be in This Book)
Written by Julie Falatko and Illustrated by Tim Miller
Published in 2016 by Viking
Grades preK-3
ISBN: 978-0-451-46945-8
Book Review
According to the narrator, “Snappsy the alligator wasn’t feeling like himself.” But Snappsy has a different point of view: “This is terrible! I’m just hungry! Why is this rude narrator trying to make it seem like I need a nap?” So begins the clever, eponymous, debut picture book by author Julie Falatko with pictures by Tim Miller. As Snappsy attempts to go about his day, he gets increasingly annoyed as he engages in a verbal tug-of-war with an intrusive narrator. Unjustly portrayed as a big, mean predator rather than the harmless, grocery store-shopping alligator that he is, Snappsy tries to reason with the pesky and persistent narrator to no avail. Metafiction at its best, Snappsy, the Alligatorpositions young readers to question the truth of what they read in print and what they are told. The witty banter is humorous for children and adults alike and is ripe for repeated read alouds. Tim Miller’s cartoonish illustrations reveal Snappsy’s full range of emotions as he tries in vain to go about his normal day. The surprising ending will leave readers smiling at the trickery that ensued all along.
Teaching Ideas / Invitations for Your Classroom:
Grades preK-3
Who’s Telling the Story? Understanding Narration. One of the most clever facets of Snappsy, the Alligator is the way in which the narrator shifts from its objective and seemingly omniscient position to making itself known near the end of the tale thereby revealing its own subjectivity and bias. After the first few pages, ask students “Who’s telling the story?” and “How do we know?” Define the role of the narrator as someone who tells the story and who presents a point of view of the story. Pause with students at the moment in the text where Snappsy looks up and declares, “You’re an awful narrator. You’re just describing what you see in the illustrations.”  Discuss with students what makes a great narrator and why Snappsy is getting annoyed. In the end, discuss with students what the narrator’s motives were all along.  Support students with a duet model, or pairing of texts, by comparing Snappsy, the Alligator with Mo Willems’ Elephant and Piggie story, We Are in a Book! Use this pairing to further consider the role of a narrator and the role of a reader. How are Gerald and Piggie’s reactions to being in a book different from Snappsy’s? Why? Further this thinking by building a text set including B.J. Novak’s The Book with No Pictures, Mac Barnett’s Chloe and the Lion, and Jon Stone’s The Monster at the End of This Book.
Powerful and Particular Word Choice. Julie Falatko’s use of language is worthy of close study. In particular, draw students’ attention to the powerful verbs used by the narrator to describe Snappsy’s actions such as “scooted”, “shimmied”, and “prowled”. Notice the words the narrator uses to describe Snappsy’s demeanor. Then, compare those to the words Snappsy uses to describe the narrator. Finally, what are the words the narrator uses to describe itself? Support students to add words that they love or that surprise them to a class word wall.
Alliteration for Effect. When Snappsy shops for groceries, the narrator is quick to point out that Snappsy is particularly fond of a certain letter of the alphabet based on his purchases of pudding, peanut butter, pita break, and popcorn. As you read other texts in the course of your classroom work in the weeks that follow, note how other authors have employed alliteration in their writing. Keep a running list of effective examples. Search for Classroom Bookshelf entries that also include alliteration to find other books that use this technique.
Speech Bubbles as Craft. Early writers can include dialogue in their narratives by using speech bubbles. Use Tim Miller’s use of speech bubbles as a mentor for students to study to enhance their own writing. Differentiate this work by supporting students to notice how Miller often has one character with two speech bubbles in a single moment.  Students may also notice that he uses a different font for words in speech bubbles and that the size of the font varies across the book indicating some statements as more important than others. Finally, support students to notice how the narrator’s role shifts once the narrator starts using speech bubbles.
Illustration Study. As a cartoonist, Tim Miller uses a variety of techniques to enhance the reading experience. Support students to notice and name the techniques he uses that they can use in their own illustrations including full page illustrations, double-page spreads, paneling, and close ups. Discuss with students how the variety of techniques supports a dynamic and cinematic reading experience.  Encourage students to closely read the illustrations in books during their own independent reading, noticing similar and different techniques from Miller’s choices.
Two-Voice Reader’s Theater. Written as a series of exchanges between Snappsy and the narrator, this book is primed for two-voice readings. Have students work in partnerships to play the role of Snappsy or the narrator. Chart with students how their face, tone, and body can help relay the intent and attitude of their selected character beyond the words. Consider videorecording students and playing back video rehearsals for students to self-assess the ways they went beyond the words to show more of their character’s point of view. Further this work with books such as Mo Willems’ We are in a Book! and B.J. Novak’s The Book with No Pictures.
Writing Metafiction: Playing with Point of View. Using Snappsy, the Alligator as a mentor text, encourage students to write their own metafiction pieces by inventing or selecting a main character that gets into a conflict with a narrator. Use the front flap of the book as initial inspiration for how to craft back-and-forth exchanges between the conflicting parties. Use sentence frames based on Julie Falatko’s work as a scaffold for writers such as: “I’d be careful around _____…”; “What?” “Why?”; “This is the story of a ___narrator…”.
Book Trailers. View Penguin Publishing’s book trailer cleverly titled Snappsy, the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in this Book Trailer!). Note with students the ways in which Snappsy talks to the narrator in this context and how it compares to the ways he talks to the narrator in the book. In what ways does the trailer serve as a persuasive text to encourage viewers to buy and read the book? Invite students to select favorite characters from their own reading or from class read-alouds to make trailers about. Have students work in partnerships or small groups to create their own book trailers using scanned images of pages of the book and audiorecordings of themselves as the characters and narrator. Investigate digital tools to put it altogether such as Adobe Voice, Voicethread, Animoto, Masher, and Stupeflix.
Critical Literacy 
Misunderstood Characters: Perspective Taking and Bias Text Set. Before reading, investigate the end papers with students and ask them to describe the actions they see Snappsy engaged in such as juggling, playing in the tub, and hula dancing. How do these illustrations of Snappsy help us think about the kind of alligator he is? Throughout the story, Snappsy counters the narrator’s perceptions of him leaving us to wonder whose view is right and whether Snappsy has been misunderstood. Gather other texts that highlight how well-known characters from children’s literature may have been misunderstood in their original tales such as The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Sciezska, The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig by Eugene Trivizas, and Honestly, Red Riding Hood Was Rotten! by Tricia Speed Shaskan. Explore with students the concept of bias and how we as readers are inclined to side with the seemingly authoritative perspective of the narrator. How do we know who has power in stories? Support students to consider how other favorite stories would be different if told from another point of view. Encourage students to write those other versions.
Further Investigations
Online Resources
Julie Falatko’s Site
Tim Miller’s Site
Book Trailer
Books
Barnett, M. (2012). Chloe and the lion. New York, NY: Disney-Hyperion.
Braun, E. (2011). Trust me, Jack’s beanstalk stinks!: The story of Jack and the beanstalk as told by the giant. Mankato, MN: Picture Window Books.
Novak, B.J. (2014) The book with no pictures. New York, NY: Dial Books.
Scieszka, J. (1996). The true story of the three little pigs. New York, NY: Puffin.
Shashkan, T.S. (2011). Honestly, red riding hood was rotten!: The story of little red riding hood as told by the wolf. Mankato, MN: Picture Window Books.
Stone, J. (2003). The monster at the end of this book. New York, NY: Golden Books.
Trivizas, E. (1997). The three little wolves and the big bad pig. New York, NY: Margaret K. McElderry Books.
Willems, M. (2010). We are in a book! (An Elephant and Piggie Book). New York, NY: Disney-Hyperion.

 

Katie Cunningham About Katie Cunningham

Katie is an associate professor of literacy at Manhattanville College. Her work focuses on children’s literature, literacy methods, and literacy leadership. Katie is the author of Story: Still the Heart of Literacy Learning and co-author of Literacy Leadership in Changing Schools. She is passionate about the power of stories to transform lives.

Comments

  1. Great book, and great questions to ask kids.

  2. Love love this book and your teaching ideas. I used it with both a 3rd grade class, highlighting 'understanding narration' and 'playing with point of view.' I also used it with a first grade class empahszing the 'speech bubbles as Craft.' Thanks for the recommendation.