Title: What Snail Knows
Author: Kathryn Apel
Illustrator: Mandy Foot
Reviewer: Natalie Lincoln
Admittedly, and perhaps ashamedly, it was new to me to read a lyric novel – but what a fabulous introduction! This gentle story unfolds through verse to express the beautiful connection between a dad and daughter (and a snail), who both must decide if it is safe to come out of their shells.
Both simple and complicated, the tale is very human and very real. Simple, in the use of a child narrator, but complex in its interwoven themes: notions of home and family, pride, and accepting help. A sense of the father’s loss and fear is exposed to be as strong as that of the daughter. As a teacher, I super enjoyed the wisdom of the teacher, who seamlessly included Lucy and gave tasks which made her feel not so different to everyone else. I appreciated the lack of an expected “bully,” instead focusing on the kindness and acceptance of the class. The inclusion of environment and respectful treatment of animals (even pests!) was wonderful.
While the story tells of a Year 2 student, it is a lovely read, regardless of age. Though most certainly suited to primary school, as a high school teacher, the poetic elements would work beautifully with our Year 7 poetry unit where they create an anthology of assorted poetic forms. To be fair, with its use of a variety of text types (shape and acrostic poems, tables, recipes, and procedures) I will also be using it to demonstrate experimentation of language with my Year 12 Extension English class! Artful pencil illustrations interspersed throughout correspond with the tender nature of the storytelling.
Poignant and heart-warming, What Snail Knows left me with a sense that Lucy and her dad, while not having much, really have the most important things – love for each other, and appreciation for others. Snail would approve.