Watch out, snail! by Gay Hay and Margaret Talland
Starfish Bay Publishing, 2017. ISBN 9781760360320
(Age: 4+) Highly recommended. Snails. New Zealand fauna and flora. Introduced species. Nocturnal animals. STEM. This tactile publication had me rushing to my books on New Zealand animals as I turned the pages. The Powilliphanta Snail only comes out at night, and being carnivorous spends its time finding food, while avoiding becoming food for other predators. The stunning images of night time in New Zealand's forests glow, and I had to check whether they were three dimensional, so arresting are the illustrations.
We watch the large snail (3.6 inches across, we are told in the informative page at the end) as it makes its way over branches, twigs and leaves across the forest floor.
It encounters several animals, a possum, hedgehog, rat and pig, all pests in New Zealand, introduced in the nineteenth century. It avoids being their meal, and finally finds what it is looking for, a worm which it slurps up, but other predators await our snail. Readers will call out to the snail to watch out as a weka stalks it throughout the story. Enticingly we see a beak, or an eye, a claw or leg, as it follows its prey.
Through this seemingly simple story, we see the snail and its habitat, learn more about introduced species, and see in the forest foliage other New Zealand indigenous animals. I found several and I am sure eagle-eyed younger readers will spy others. At the end is given a page of information about the snail, as well as a double page snail trail, showing where it can be found. This is a wonderful story, well told in spare, informative prose and matched with superb illustrations that draw the eye to the page over and over again.