Respected storyteller Joe Hayes is built for tall tales—he’s got the world’s longest legs! And Joe—who travels all over the United States telling stories to kids—says that The The Gum-Chewing Rattler is the perfect tall tale for kids because it combines so many familiar experiences—chewing lots of bubblegum, getting in trouble in school, driving your mom crazy—with the wild, impossible claim that a certain rattlesnake chewed gum and blew a bubble with it. Couple that with kids’ natural fascination with poisonous snakes, and The Gum-Chewing Rattler turns out to be one of Joe’s most-requested stories. Joe’s been telling this wild story for years, since before 1980, when he took those long legs of his out on the road to tell stories. But now that old gum-chewer is here for the first time in a picture book with full-color illustrations by Antonio Castro L.
Here’s how Joe’s story goes. When Joe was a boy, he chewed lots of bubblegum. His mom got so mad—the gum in his shirt pocket made a terrible mess in the wash! But this wad of bubblegum just happened to save Joe from a rattlesnake’s fangs!
Really! Don’t worry—his mother didn’t believe the story either.
An anecdote from the youth of a veteran Arizona storyteller makes its first appearance in print, matched to a Mexican artist’s warmly humorous, photographically exact scenes. Hayes himself appears at the beginning and end, recalling to a small group of listeners how, as a lad, he changed his mother’s irritated tune about keeping bubblegum in his shirt pockets.
It seems that one day he stepped on a rattler’s tail, and when the snake whipped up to bite him, its fangs sank instead into a cache of gum. So big is the resulting bubble, that when it pops, the snake goes flying back and hits his head on a rock, knocking him out. Castro exaggerates the expressions on his human characters and gives the rattler a fiercely intense air of menace for this brief and thoroughly believable (right?) tale. (illustrator’s note) (Picture book. 6-8)
- November 15, 2006
School Library Journal
Hayes spins a yarn purportedly derived from his boyhood in a small town in Arizona. The story involves his penchant for chewing wads of bubblegum, his mother's exasperation with the resultant messes, and an encounter with an angry rattlesnake.
The large, two-page illustrations depict the exaggerations of this tall tale perfectly with varying perspectives on the child's encounter with the creature, bright shades of gold and turquoise, and an emphasis on pink (of course). Endpapers repeat the bold pink with splashes of a paler hue, framing a fun book for just about any kid; boys, especially, will love it. (Kindergarten-Grade 3)
Veteran storyteller Hayes masterfully spins a kid-pleasing tall-tale from the Arizona desert. From the first line, "When I was a kid growing up in Arizona, I used to love to chew bubblegum," he shows his gift for connecting with young readers, who will completely accept his report of gum-inspired scoldings from a stern teacher and gum-caused laundry woes, and then—why not?—his story of how his trusty wad of bubblegum saved him from a rattlesnake: the snake's fangs get entangled in the gum and then the snake blows the world's biggest bubble which explodes in the world's biggest pop. Mexican artist Antonio Castro's hyper-realistic illustrations complement the text perfectly. Young Joe is depicted with such meticulous attention to detail, from the gum bulge in his cheek to the hole in the bottom of his boot, that the gum-chewing rattler seems just as convincing: if a snake did chew bubblegum, this would be exactly how he would look. A brief illustrator's note at the end shows how Castro uses models to achieve his realistic effects. A surefire storytime pleaser.