What Snail Knows, by Kathryn Apel
Illustrations by Mandy Foot.
This beautifully constructed verse novel for younger readers gently illuminates themes of loneliness, belonging, kindness, friendship and family. It will both break your heart and make you smile.
Lucy and her Dad are always on the move, packing all their belongings into the old brown car and moving on to the next place. Lucy's Dad says they don't need anyone else - but Lucy's not so sure - what would happen if they needed help, or dad got sick - who would they turn to?
Luckily Lucy has her pet Snail to keep her company - like Snail, Lucy often prefers to stay curled in her shell, keeping others at a distance. It's safer not to let anyone get too close.
However, the new place is different. Mei-hui's caravan park, where Lucy lives with Dad and Snail, is starting to feel more and more like home. At the new school, Tahnee shows kindness and friendship, slowly squeezing her way into Lucy's shell. The teacher Miss Darling also starts to erode Lucy's defences, inspiring Lucy and her classmates to identify ways in which they might help the community.
Lucy finds herself starting to inch slowly out of her shell as she engages with her classmates in various activities and gets to know and trust Tahnee more and more.
When something goes unexpectedly wrong, Lucy quickly realises the importance of allowing others to reach out and help. But will Dad feel the same way?
This is such a heartwarming story which ultimately shines with hope. The writing is exquisite - understated, and rich in symbolism. The placement of words on each page is significant, effectively adding further layers to the narrative. At times the verse forms shapes on the page (such as the shape of a car when Lucy shares that sometimes she and her dad sleep in the car). The shapes are such a unique way of adding meaning, and engaging young readers.
The use of rhyme, repetition, similes, alliteration and snail-related imagery also add texture, colour and depth to the narrative, allowing children to engage with the text in a creative way.
I also love that this story gently raises awareness of sustainable living, reducing waste, protecting our environment, and helping others in the community.
The soft expressive illustrations by Many Foot scattered through the pages are just gorgeous - the delicate black and white drawings effectively conveying both heartbreak and hope.
Snail is a beautiful metaphor for the way in which Lucy and her Dad gradually start to uncurl themselves from their shell to let others in.
Highly recommended for your 7+ reader.
Published by UQP