Gay Hay (text) Margaret Tolland (illus.) Watch Out, Snail!, Starfish Bay Children’s Books, June 2017 40pp., $29.99 (hbk), ISBN 9781760360320
Few Australians would be familiar with the giant New Zealand snail Powelliphanta. A nocturnal and carnivorous creature, it can grow up to 9-10cm in length and has 6000 teeth. This attractive picture book follows a snail over the course of one night as it comes out looking for prey and is in turn the target of other animals’ hunting.
As the story is set at night, the colours of the background are dark blue. The animals hunting the snail are shown from interesting perspectives and include introduced feral animals such as possums and hedgehogs. The pages showing the snail catching and eating a worm do not shirk from showing the details. Short, sharp text heightens the sense of tension and drama and the font size changes according to the sense of urgency.
The final three pages give additional factual information about this fascinating creature, although the measurement of size is in inches, not centimetres. It is great to see an information book for young readers about a little-known animal with such an engaging storyline and attractive illustrations. This book was a finalist in the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards.
Reviewed by Lynne Babbage