What if one day you and your siblings shrunk down to a tiny, tiny size, crept out under a crack in the door, and went to live in a snail house... on the back of a moving snail? That's precisely what happens in Allan Ahlberg and illustrator Gillian Tyler's quiet, lovely picture book The Snail House
, told in a folksy, story-time voice by Grandma to her grandchildren Hannah and Michael and their baby brother. ("'It have a TV?' Hannah said. 'No TV, sweetheart, not in those days. But a radio, yes.'")
Young children will adore poring over every delicate detail of Tyler's exquisitely drawn snail's-eye view of the world, a universe where falling apples cause earthquakes and babies can be lost in a forest of grass. The snail house--complete with doors, windows, porch railings, tiny furniture, and toys--provides fodder for hours of close examination. Scary moments like the arrival of a giant snail-eating thrush ("'No!' cried Hannah") contrast with peaceful times, such as stretching a clothesline between the snail's eyestalks, reading books, and washing windows. All in all, this fine book is a visual feast with the miniature-world appeal of The Borrowers. Preschoolers can revel in the fascinating picture story without having to read a word. (Ages 3 to 7) --Karin Snelson
From Publishers Weekly
Tyler's (The Good Little Christmas Tree) paneled, watercolor and pen-and-ink pictures in miniature play a pivotal role in revealing the engaging action in this creatively designed, horizontal volume. Small-scaled, wispy and finely detailed, her art bears an uncanny resemblance to that of the late Janet Ahlberg. In his story within a story, author Ahlberg introduces a brother and sister who climb into their grandmother's ample lap while their baby brother dozes in a stroller. The woman tells them about three siblings portrayed in the pictures as their look-alikes who one day shrink to a tiny size and take up residence in a snail's shell: "It was a proper house too, with a door and windows, roof and chimney, table, chairs, three little beds, curtains, and crockery everything!" Side panels show the siblings battling bugs with a broomstick and hanging laundry on a line fixed between the snail's feelers. As the children eagerly interrupt their grandmother to comment on her tale, the nimble, conversational narrative describes a trio of adventures that the children embark upon before bidding farewell to their snail. Ahlberg again displays his gift for storytelling in a work that will surely set young imaginations loose and may well color the way readers view diminutive garden dwellers. Tyler's paintings prove that she is equally adept at depicting these likable human characters as she is the natural world. Ages 5-8.
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