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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Danny Diamondback: A Jewel of a Book Review

By Barry E. Jackson

ISBN-13: 9780061131844, 2008
Fiction: Picture Book, Humor, Snakes, Friendship, Diversity, Music

Publisher: Harper Collins: NY ; $16.99
Author site: Barry E. Jackson

Danny Diamondback is an orphaned snake who searches for a new family. From the first family of jackrabbits to the sparrows, Danny is not accepted. Danny’s parents forgot to tell him that he is a dangerous poisonous snake. Then one day he happens upon a community of prairie dogs and they too scatter like fluff on a seeded dandelion, except for visually impaired Pablo. Pablo talks his grandmother into letting Danny stay with them. Pablo and Danny get to know each other through their musical talents. Pablo talks his family into letting Danny play in their band with a disguise. Danny feels accepted until his true identity comes out during a band concert and the desert animals scatter in fear. Danny finds himself alone until he notices a pack of hungry coyotes headed toward the prairie dog community looking for some chow. Are the coyotes equally afraid of Danny? Will Danny find a new home?

Barry E. Jackson’s animated illustrations are realistically entertaining, which softens the fear factor associated with the story. The southern drawl may put some off, but shows diversity in cultures. Leaving the “g” off of words or using a colloquial speech, like “y’all” to promote inflections may make it difficult for young readers to read alone.

What I liked best about the story was Jackson’s encouragement to the reader to look beyond differences of individuals and look for something in common. Never give up in finding that place where you can fit in by being kind and open to discovering new things about new acquaintances. Equally important, Jackson tells the reader that the rattlesnake is nothing to play with by gently squeezing in important facts, so the young reader does not go away thinking that a rattlesnake is something to play with.

Some topics drawn from this story for discussion include: orphans, friendship, fear, poisonous snakes, desert wildlife, talents, tolerance, cultural diversity, visual impairment, and music.

Reviewer recommends Danny Diamondback for preschool through elementary grade libraries and homes.

Reviewed for Jewel of a book by Jewel Sample--Award-winning author of Flying Hugs and Kisses. To learn more about Jewel Sample visit her at

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