“Be quiet! Don’t wriggle! Sit still! Stay put!” – we are often commanding our little ones to sit down and stop fidgeting, but Julia Donaldson’s Snail and the Whale suggests that maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to discourage itchy feet! Donaldson’s charmingly unconventional travelogue celebrates discovery and exploration by telling the story of a tiny snail who longs to see the world.

There is a reason why The Snail and the Whale won the 2005 Blue Peter award for Best Book to Read Aloud. Playful rhyming and repetition will help young readers get to grips with the vocabulary and encourage them to vocalise the sounds: “And as she [the snail] gazed she sniffed and sighed. ‘The sea is deep and the world is wide!’”  Donaldson delights in the language of movement – “slithering”, “sailing”, “zipping” and “slipping.” Like little feet, the imagination should never sit still, especially not when there is a world to explore and the opportunity of hitching a lift on a humpback whale!

Axel Scheffler’s collaboration with the former Children’s Laureate has been rightfully celebrated around the world. Throughout their books, words interplay with pictures to create meaning in the most irresistible way. In The Snail and the Whale, the interaction between Scheffler’s illustrations and Donaldson’s verse will allow young readers to comprehend the narrative and take part in its twists and turns: what magical sights will the snail see next, and will she be able to save the whale when it gets stranded on the shore? Fans of The Gruffalo will not be disappointed by this tuneful tale and its tenacious leading lady.

Written by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler
Lydia Mihailovic, literary editor