Watch out, snail by Gay Hay

cover image

Ill. by Margaret Tolland. Starfish Bay Children's Books, 2017. ISBN 9780473226442
(Age: 4-7) Highly recommended. Subjects: Snails, New Zealand Animals. The Powelliphanta snail is very rare, a native of New Zealand's moist forests. This large carnivorous snail hunts for earthworms at night.
Author Gay Hay and illustrator Margaret Tolland's Watch Out, Snail explores the nocturnal activities of the snail as it slips and slides through the forest searching for food. Lurking in the background are the hungry predators waiting to pounce. The striking front cover with a glossy overlay on the delicately patterned shell is both a tactile and visual experience. As the snail crawls over and under the leaves, a shiny trail is left behind, for readers to trace the snail's movements. Tolland's visually pleasing paintings bring us close to the action. The deep purple of the night sky, the green hues of the leaves and bushes are a beautiful background for the snail's nocturnal trip.
Hay's alliterative narrative is measured, with each short sentence perfectly chosen. 'Night slips in. The forest stirs.' Carefully camouflaged in the background waiting to be discovered are bird's beaks and claws, the silhouette of a rat and then close-ups of the predators, a hedgehog shuffling and a large pig with menacing tusks ready to eat the snail. A surprise for the readers is the close-up of the Powelliphanta snail using its rows of rasping teeth to slurp up the tasty earthworm. Hay leaves us with an interesting ending, as the Weka bird appears through the foliage. Is the snail safe?
Additional facts are included describing the life cycle, diet, physical features, habitat and predators. In conjunction with Hay's Go, Green Gecko, this informative picture book Watch Out, Snail, is an excellent resource for the Early Years Science curriculum - Biological Sciences. In Year 1, 'learners explore and investigate how living things live in different places where their needs are met'.
Rhyllis Bignell