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The Gum Chewing Rattler

Midwest Book Review 1 Stars
An upbeat and playful story, perfectly accentuated by the wry yet realistic art.
Award-winning author Joe Hayes and mural artist Antonio Castro L. combine their talents in The Gum Chewing Rattler, a picture book about a tall tale of a young boy's encounter with a rattlesnake. When the middle-aged narrator was a kid growing up in Arizona, he used to love chewing bubblegum more than anything. He loved it so much that he kept it in his shirt pocket at all times, and when he forgot to take it out, it would leave a big, gunky pink stain when his mother washed the clothes. One day, the boy stepped on a rattlesnake's tail - but when the rattlesnake moved to bite him in the chest, its teeth became stuck in the gum in his shirt pocket! And when the snake worked loose, there was so much gum in its mouth that it blew a bubble! An upbeat and playful story, perfectly accentuated by the wry yet realistic art.
- February 3, 2007 
School Library Journal
Kindergarten-Grade 3—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.
Kirkus Reviews
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)
New Mexico Magazine
Storyteller Joe Hayes is deservedly famous for his tall tales. Take The Gum Chewing Rattler. It starts with the young Joe, growing up in Arizona, just loving to chew bubblegum. Of course, this habit was loathed by his teachers and even his mother, who hated the fact that he forgot to take the offending gum out of his shirt pocket before washing.

But one day, something happened to change all that. Joe meets a rattlesnake. In fact, he steps right on the rattlesnake's tail. Rather than spoil what happens next, you'll just have to read The Gum Chewing Rattler. Suffice it to say, a heroic struggle ensues, with Joe's life saved by the bubblegum. Do you believe it? Well, Joe's mother didn't either.

Cinco Puntos Press has long been producing some of the liveliest Southwestern children's books around. This one is enhanced by dynamic and colorful illustrations by Antonio Castro L., who also is a muralist. His illustrations of a rattlesnake blowing pink bubbles are memorable, as is the story. The book is sure to become a "read it again" favorite.
- Miriam Sagan, 
El Paso Scene
“The Gum-Chewing Rattler,” by Joe Hayes, illustrated by Antonio Castro L. Southwest storyteller Joe Hayes takes a slightly different edge on his beloved tales by placing himself in the center spotlight. In this “true story,” Hayes justifies his bubblegum-chewing passion as he recounts his experience with an angry rattlesnake. One of Hayes’ most requested stories during his live storytelling sessions, the story is just plain cute. The accompanying illustrations by Antonio Castro L. add to the light tone of the story as well as add that element of suspense. Not recommended for anyone squeamish of snakes ... or bubblegum.
Children's Literature
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.
Albuquerque Journal
Tall tale or not, “The Gum Chewing Rattler” makes me want to heed Hayes and pack up the Bazooka or the Bubblicious the next time I set foot in the Arizona desert.
Storyteller Joe Hayes Rattles Off Tall Tale With ‘Gum Chewing’ Yarn


Joe Hayes’ boyhood bubble gum habit blows a lot of life and a little legend into his latest book “The Gum Chewing Rattler.” The longtime Santa Fe storyteller takes readers back to his childhood when his talent for chewing a lot of gum earned him scoldings from his teacher. His mother also gets exasperated with having to clean up the shirt pockets where he stores his gum. Not to give too much away, let’s just say that an unfortunate snake bites off more than he can chew when he meets up with Hayes in the Arizona desert.

I read the colorful picture book with my daughter Natalie, a 10-year-old fifth-grader, and my son Nicholas, 4, to see what they thought. I was drawn by the desert setting since I grew up in Arizona. The vivid illustrations of Antonio Castro L. perfectly capture the vivid landscape of the Sonoran Desert— from the purple mountains to the almost lush plant life of ocotillos and prickly pear cactuses. Of course, there’s that very intimidating rattler that Castro L. draws.

Natalie liked the detailed attention the illustrator showed, particularly the facial expressions of the younger Hayes and his mother. (An afterword explains how Castro L. creates his very lifelike results.) I also liked Castro L.’s way of illustrating a younger Hayes with some nice retro touches like his Oxford shoes and leather bookbag. Hayes’ breezy, tall-tale storytelling style will surely delight younger and older kids as well as the grownup reader. And the sight of a rattlesnake blowing bubbles will get anyone to pay attention— at bedtime or otherwise.

“I thought it was really creative. It’s an out-of-the-ordinary idea to think of a rattler chewing bubble gum,” my daughter said. Nicholas agreed enthusiastically with that last observation, being highly impressed by the snake’s bubble-blowing abilities.

El Paso Inside & Out
Certain to keep you in stitches the whole way through, the wonderfully absurd The Gum Chewing Rattler is an extremely tall tale that author Joe Hayes has been telling for more than 25 years. With all the crucial elements for a book fit for a mischievous little boy, this book tells the tale of an older man’s younger years, taking the reader back to the days when chewing gum occupied his childhood fantasies and irritating his mother was common practice. But to his mother’s dismay, it is that annoying chewing gum habit that saves his young life from the jaws of an enraged rattlesnake.
Proud Grandmother
Isaiah is 3 years old and one of his favorite night time books is The Gum Chewing Rattler. He calls it "Bubblegum Snake." He turns the pages and knows the story word-for-word. Thank you for contributing to the literacy of my grandson! Michelle Cothrin Shelton
Dear Mr. Hayes,

In 2007, it was my pleasure to hear you at the Texas State Reading Association conference in El Paso. At that time, you autographed a book, The Gum Chewing Rattler, to my grandson, Isaiah. He was 5 months old. Well now, Isaiah is 3 years old and one of his favorite night time books is The Gum Chewing Rattler. He calls it "Bubblegum Snake." He turns the pages and knows the story word-for-word.

Thank you for contributing to the literacy of my grandson, Michelle Cothrin Shelton

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