The Story Behind the Snake Picture

picture with pythonOn the cover of Seven is a Perfect Number are pictures of my granddaughter Avery’s lovely little hands signing the title of the book.  In the book, Amber and Laura help out in a special education class and learn a little sign language, so it seemed appropriate to have sign language on the cover. It also gave me a way to use hands on the cover as is my plan for every book.

When it came to choosing a picture for the back cover, I had several ideas. I like to show parts of our beautiful state. The back cover of the first Handy Helpers book is of me and my granddaughters at the Grand Canyon. But as I considered various pictures, I kept coming back to the one of me holding a huge python. It was taken by my friend, Tari Dane, while we were at Out of Africa with our students. Our tour guide brought out the snake and most of my students took turns holding it. At last, she asked if I would like to hold the snake, and of course I said I would. As soon as the snake was draped around my neck, the cameras came out. I stood there for ten or fifteen minutes cradling the snake’s head in my hand while everyone in our group took my picture. It was just like stepping out on the red carpet. I felt like a star.

As I considered whether or not I should use the picture, I decided to ask for advice from my friends on Facebook. I posted the picture along with the scene from the book that inspired me to use the snake picture. It is a scene where Logan and Chris are helping the science teacher clean the animal habitats and get them ready for summer. This is what happened:

“As Melissa walked back to her classroom, she noticed some kind of commotion going on.

‘What happened?’ she asked one of the students standing on the walkway in front of their classroom.

‘Some snakes got loose,’ the student explained. ‘Chris and Logan were cleaning their aquariums and somehow the container they put them in got knocked over.’

‘What kind of snakes?’ Melissa sounded worried.

‘Harmless ones,’ a boy named Carl told her. ‘There’s nothing to be afraid of, but you couldn’t tell by looking at all those stupid girls in there jumping up on their chairs.’

Melissa looked in the classroom and saw girls running around screaming and standing on chairs. Laura and Amber were trying to calm them down. ‘There’s nothing to be afraid of,’ she heard Amber say. ‘Those snakes won’t hurt you.’

‘I hate snakes!’ one of the girls yelled, and they all started running around and screaming even more.

Melissa was about to go into the classroom, when Chris came walking up with a little California king snake wrapped around his wrist.

‘Caught the king snake,’ he called to Logan, who was crawling around in the bushes outside the science room.

‘That’s all of them, Logan said, ‘except the bull snake. He’s big and should be easier to find.’

Kids standing on the walkway started yelling and pointing. ‘Here comes your snake,’ Melissa laughed. Chris and Logan looked up to see Ms. McGuire coming up the walkway. She had the bull snake draped on her shoulders with its head in one hand. She was stroking the snake with her other hand.

‘What are you yelling about?’ Ms. McGuire scowled at the students outside the classroom. ‘It’s just a bull snake. He won’t hurt you. Be quiet or you’ll scare him.’

‘Not any more than he’s scaring us,’ said one of the students.

‘Go on back in the room,’ Ms. McGuire told them, ‘the reptile rodeo is over.'”

As the vote came in, my friends overwhelmingly urged me to use the picture. Even my niece, Tara, who is horribly afraid of snakes, voted for the picture. When I told my cover editor, she said, “Well let’s put that picture on the back cover then!”

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