"Crictor" is the story of a boa constrictor that was sent to a Madame Bodot (who lived in a French village) as a birthday present from her son (who studied reptiles and lived in Africa).
The gift of the snake was a total surprise to her but after going to the zoo and finding out the snake was not venomous, she decided to keep it and raise it.
She did all sorts of things to make sure Crictor was happy... such as decorate her home with palm trees so he'd feel more at home, bring Crictor with her when she went shopping, knit him a sweater...
...and let him sleep in a bed all of his own.
Madame Bodot was a schoolteacher and would also bring Crictor to the classroom where he learned his lessons along with the other students. He would also play jump rope with the girls (he being the rope!), let the boy scouts twist him about to learn their knots and retrieve kites that got stuck in high places.
One day while Madame Bodot and Crictor were at the cafe (oh, I could see myself doing the exact same thing-ha ha ha), she was told about some burglaries that were happening in the neighborhood.
Sure enough, Madame Bodot's home was broken into that night and she was gagged and tied to a chair! When Crictor finally woke up from his sleep, he got right in there, surprised the burglar and then coiled around him so he couldn't get away. The shrieks from the burglar are what brought the police since Madame was still tied up and gagged.
Crictor was called a hero! He was given a medal, a statue was made of him, and a park was named after him too. And then he and Madame Bodot and everyone else in the village lived happily ever after.
Until yesterday, I had not seen this book since I was a little kid. The scene of Crictor in bed is exactly how I remembered it. However, the one thing in this book that really stood out for me (and my sister Laurie) were the letters and numbers that Crictor was able to shape himself into. Although I had remembered an entire elaborate alphabet, when I looked at the book fresh from the library yesterday, Tomi Ungerer only illustrated eight letters and only seven numbers. Whatever. They still made a heck of an impression on me. :-) The idea that you can make letters and numbers from a snake's body? I owe Mr. Ungerer my introduction to type and graphic design.
Click on the images to see them a little bit bigger since they're kind of hard to see otherwise. :-)