The Snail and the Whale by Julia Donaldson
Satisfy your wander-lust in verse
This is probably my favourite of Julia Donaldson’s, mainly as I travel *way* less than I’d like to so indulge my wander-lust vicariously. Turns out this even extends to illustrated snails plucked from the confines of their rock to be whisked off on global adventures by a grey-blue humpback whale. I imagine children more appreciate the classic, heart-warming message that even the tiniest creatures can save the biggest ones – always resonant whilst you yourself are a small person.
Donaldson’s poetry is on-point in this tale (is it ever not?) where she uses a presentational linguistic format to move the story on, which adds almost a sea-shanty style romanticism to the tale:
‘This is the rock as black as soot and this is the snail with the itchy foot. This is the whale who came one night…’
The lyricism makes it a great bedtime soother, and I often use it after lights-out as a ‘last story’ once their eyes are closed. That does miss out on the brilliantly creative page layouts though. The volume of text-per-page varies from a couple of lines where Axel Scheffler’s illustrations take centre stage, to a few verses confined to a side bar with small and large scenes in Scheffler’s signature style.
The only slight irritation with this fab book came from my primary teacher mother who took exception to the somewhat dorkish teacher ‘holding her chalk/ telling the class, sit straight! Don’t talk!’ before her charges rush out of the building at the snail’s behest. Not exactly the image of dynamic, enriching education to inspire our youngsters …