A snail slips into the shadowy night. Will it be predator or prey?
Night falls, and deep in the forest, a snail stirs. A slick shell and pebbled, painted body, raised on matte pages, smoothly blend tactile and visual texture. Snail wends through the forest, eluding one predator after another, as recounted in spare but effective text: “Hedgehog shuffles”; “Rat sneaks up”; “Possum fossicks.” (This is a New Zealand import.) Will snail find success as it stalks its own prey? It’s a rich sensory experience, across deep aubergine night spreads—glossy, embossed splotches like slime in snail’s wake—with a few quibbles. Drastic shifts in scale may confuse younger readers: snail nearly fills an early two-page spread (at odds with the text, “its shell as big as your fist”), but a bit later, it is only an eighth of that size. The hedgehog, rat, possum, and pig are eerily shiny and bright, slightly out of place in the moody, mottled night. Most troubling is a key dramatic encounter hidden in the book’s gutter. Still, this is an engaging nonfiction addition for early readers and listeners. The active, alliterative text reads aloud well, and additional notes and illustrations at the end of the book offer more scientific information for those looking to go deeper.
This snail’s suspenseful expedition will have readers at the edges of their seats. (Informational picture book. 4-8)