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Author: Julia Donaldson (website)
Illustrator: Axel Scheffler
Publisher: Macmillan’s Children’s Books
Format: Hardcover, also available in Paperback and Board Book
Age Range: Toddler, Preschooler, Early Reader
Kid Love Factor: 4/5
Adult Sanity Factor: 4/5
In The Snail and the Whale, a tiny snail clings to a smooth, black rock and, unlike her more sheltered friends and family, dreams of seeing the world. Luckily, she manages to catch the attention of a passing humpback whale with a note and he takes her on a journey to see amazing sights in wondrous locations. All this beauty and excitement leave the poor snail feeling insignificant, until the whale encounters racing speedboats and accidently beaches himself in a bay. The snail uses her cursive writing skills to save the day, proving that anyone, no matter how small, can make a difference in this world.
A humpback whale, immensely long,
Who sang to the snail a wonderful song,
Of shimmering ice and coral caves,
And shooting stars and enormous waves.
The Snail and the Whale has a wonderful rhythmic metre in addition to its rhyme. There’s a lilting and rollicking feel to the words that complements the book’s nautical theme. The vibrant pictures are full of detail and personality without being so overwhelming as to eclipse the text. And while the main moral of the story refers to how even the smallest among us can make a big impact in the world, there are secondary lessons about dreaming beyond initial circumstances, taking chances to grow, the importance of communication and literacy, and the impact of humanity on nature.
The book is probably most appropriate as a read-aloud story for toddlers and preschoolers, but will serve as enjoyable visual and auditory stimulation for babies as well as an excellent story for practicing primary readers.
Boo loves pointing out the various creatures (Octopus! Shark! Teacher!) and happily waves bye bye to the helpful villagers near the end of the book. He also likes to zig and zoom like a speedboat, which is both cute and exhausting to watch.
As a parent, you will have to read this one repeatedly. But The Snail and the Whale is written well enough that this doesn’t become a chore until the fifth or sixth (or seventh!) time in a row.
Autism Spectrum Bonus: I'll confess there's not much I can think of for this book that would be of more use to those on the spectrum than those who aren't. Anyone with a Special Interest in ocean animals will likely love it. For older kids, the idea that only one snail of the whole snail "flock" wanted to move beyond her boundaries and explore the world might be a good starting point for a discussion on differences in opinions and personalities between individuals. And while taking risks in order to grow as a person is a good lesson for any child, it might be even more important for kids with autism.
A whale of a tale, told of a snail,
And her exotic adventures beyond the pale,
With pristine locales and human-caused strife,
Reminds us what's important in life.
The Snail and the Whale on Amazon.ca
The Snail and the Whale on Amazon.com