In this illustrated children’s book, a magical apricot falls to the ground and enchants a group of snails.
In an orchard, an ancient tree bears only a single fruit. This apricot falls to the ground, where no one notices it except some snails out for an excursion. They don’t know what this sphere on the ground is, but it’s so gorgeous that they can’t seem to forget about it. Is it a glass globe? A piece of the sun? A fruit from heaven? The oldest and wisest snail confirms this last guess: “It’s a golden apricot, with a thin and honeyed skin, flesh that’s sweet—a heavenly fruit to eat!” But as the snails gather round, the apricot implores them to leave her untouched. “Ordinary I am not,” she explains. “For I am Cybèle! A glorious apricot!” She tells them about the magic seed at her center and asks them to protect the place where she lies as a sanctuary. Night after night, they gather around her, chanting her praises. But one day, she’s nowhere to be found. The next spring, though, the snails discover a small sapling in the orchard, growing from a kind of stone. It’s Cybèle, minus her skin, and one day she’ll grow into a tree, she explains, and the snails rejoice. First-time author and illustrator Glenn, a former flower arranger at the famous Chez Panisse restaurant in California, paints her images in delicate, lovely washes of color. Cybèle glows in shades of gold and peach, and the snails are equally beautiful, rendered with attention to the details of their shells and spotted bodies. Although actual snails may seem to be inexpressive creatures, Glenn gives hers life and personality. When they search for Cybèle, for instance, their necks and tentacles stretch to look around, and one snail peers inquisitively underneath a mushroom cap; readers can feel their urgency. Overall, the book has a sense of strangeness and mystery, underscored by subtle rhymes in dialogue and the snails’ adoring chants: “Slip and slide; weave a spell. / Shimmer, shimmer, our Cybèle.” Some vocabulary words may challenge young readers, such as “nocturnal,” “perplexed,” “succulent,” and “scruples.”
A gorgeous, mysterious, and enchanting introduction to the circle of life.