Snobbles the Great: A Snooze Patch Story is about Snobbles, a fruit-eating snake who saves the other snakes of Snooze Patch from a terrible mongoose. Jason Dobkin and Erika Gragg combined a mix of art techniques with a rhyming narrative to create a unique product. The goal of the book is to inspire parents and teachers to incorporate creativity and art into daily activities.
Unfortunately, I have to say that it didn’t work for me. Though we really wanted to like Snobbles, it didn’t really work for me or my family when we read it together. Somehow the artwork ended up being underwhelming (or overwhelming, which I’ll talk about in a minute) and the story falls apart in the second half of the book.
I do respect Dobkin & Gragg’s approach to try and inspire artistic expression. The idea of combining multiple artistic disciplines of painting, sculpture, photography, stage design, lighting, and cinematography is a good one. But in this case, it often produced images that were far too busy to enhance the story and inspire creative expression.
For example, on the first page the opening image of Snooze Patch reveals very little to contribute to the text – “Sneaking and sliding around in their sleep, dreaming of sweet little morsels to eat, sensing the sun rise over them brightly, six snakes in the Snooze Patch slithered slightly.” I would expect to see one or more snakes waking up and see a sun breaking over the horizon. Instead, we see a strange building in the distance, a desert valley with some rocky peaks beyond it, and a few snake holes and cacti.
A couple of pages later we’re introduced to the main character of the story, Snobbles. The only thing in the picture hinting that Snobbles is the main character is that he’s not blurry in the background of the image like the other snakes and features.
And later in the book, Snobbles and his friend Scoot (a scorpion) go into an underground tunnel that appears to be inspired by an acid trip from the 1960s. Bright colors and weird mushrooms and stalagmites against a bizarre swirl of colors in the background. My children didn’t find it inspiring as much as confusing.
Beyond the art, we found the rhyming story to not always rhyme well or consistently. And the evil mongoose, the bad guy of the story, seemed to lose the ability to speak in complete sentences with phrases like “Me catch you and eat you, you can’t escape me.”
On the second to last page, the authors decided to not only include two stanzas of the rhyming story on a single page, which was confusing, but introduce new characters from the Snooze Patch. All of a sudden we were introduced to Snack Mamba, Snoo-Billy Doo, Snoliver, Snattle-Tale, and Snaggletooth. Where’d they come from?
Overall, I applaud the authors’ attempt to come up with something inspiring. Unfortunately, they ended up with an uneven art project and a story that could have been better arranged. Better luck next time.
p.s. Do check out this book at Amazon or your local bookstore if you’re interested. They do use some intriguing art techniques for the images!