Cover image for The snake's tales
The snake's tales
Davol, Marguerite W.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Orchard Books 2002.
Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 27 x 27 cm
In the time before stories, two children meet a snake who offers to trade tales for their fruit.
Reading Level:
AD 480 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR LG 3.5 0.5 68931.

Reading Counts RC K-2 2.8 2 Quiz: 30881 Guided reading level: L.
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PIC. BK. Juvenile Fiction Central Closed Stacks
PIC. BK. Juvenile Fiction Picture Books
PIC. BK. Juvenile Fiction Picture Books

On Order



A highly-acclaimed author and illustrator join forces to bring readers this original folktale, which explains how stories began to be told.

In this folktale, Beno and his sister Allita live in a time before there were stories. One day, they meet a snake who promises to tell them stories in exchange for the berries they've picked. He tells them how the stars once were bees, and what makes a rose smell sweet; he tells stories about what makes the sky blue, and why frogs croak.
The children tell their parents about stories, and about the snake's tales. Like a snake that sheds its skin, this family's life comes alive with color as they learn the value of storytelling.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 2^-4, younger for reading aloud. Who told the first story? This imaginative tale, suggested by a traditional Seneca story, credits a snake. In a time long ago, when there were no stories, a family lived a quiet, busy life: Mother spun wool, Father tended goats, and the children foraged for fruit. On successive days the son and daughter are sent to collect fruit in a bucket. Each child meets a magical snake who trades stories for food, telling tales until the children's buckets are empty. Mother wonders why children return empty-handed, but there's no mention of the snake. The full story comes out in humorous fashion after the children trade apples for entertainment and their father spots an amazingly lumpy (apple-stuffed) snake in the forest. Then the laughing boy and girl retell the stories they have heard, and their parents pass them on. Heo's artwork, strongly contemporary with a folk-art flavor, is packed with brightly colored details drawn from the snake's stories. It offers lots to look at as Davol's narrative cleverly contemplates the genesis of storytelling--an activity close to the hearts of us all. --Connie Fletcher

Publisher's Weekly Review

A smooth-tongued snake takes on the role of tempter and raconteur in a pleasing original story inspired by a Native American folktale. "Once upon the time of no stories," begins Davol (The Paper Dragon), creating and maintaining an appropriately timeless aura. On separate occasions, siblings Beno and Allita are individually sent by their mother to gather fruit for the family. Each encounters a sly snake that offers to tell them stories in return for the fruit they've just picked. As neither child has ever heard a story before, each accepts the snake's offer and is regaled with various myths and dramatic accounts. Mama and Papa, while deprived of strawberries and raspberries, are eventually rewarded with the entertaining fare that Beno and Allita have collected instead. Davol's folktale rhythm and simple imagery are just right for a tale about the origin of story. Heo (One Sunday Morning) creates a smiling, blank-eyed clan that recall wooden dolls. Her cheerfully cluttered pencil-and-oil compositions hum with activity. Drawing her subjects first people, chickens, fireflies, apple trees then painting background colors around them and leaving bits of white paper exposed, Heo gives her work extra pop. Ages 5-9. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

K-Gr 2-Writing in the style of a folktale, Davol employs traditional elements in her phrasing, use of repetition, and sound effects. Papa herds sheep and Mama cooks and weaves. One day, Mama sends her son to pick strawberries in the forest. He meets a hungry snake and the two make a trade-strawberries for stories. Another day, Mama sends her daughter to pick raspberries. She, too, meets the snake, makes a trade, and returns home empty-handed. Still later, the two children together trade some just-picked apples and that evening at the dinner table Papa tells of an unusual sight he came across-a fat, lumpy snake that could hardly move. The children share the snake's stories with their parents, who in turn share them with their friends. Davol credits a traditional Seneca tale, "The Storytelling Stone," as the inspiration for her pourquoi tale, but no specific setting or culture is established. Heo's signature stylized pencil-and-oil artwork is bright and cheerful with a swirling red snake curving through the pages, rounded family members smiling pleasantly, and brown lines suggesting branches and animal legs. A useful way of introducing the oral tradition.-Susan Pine, New York Public Library (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.