cover image SNAIL BOY


Leslie McGuirk, Author, Leslie McGuirk, Illustrator . Candlewick $15.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-7636-1259-7

Snail is "a Gigantic Exotic Gastropod in full bloom." He resembles a cartoon dinosaur, albeit with pale gray skin and a pastel blue-and-green shell. Furthermore, Snail is "as big as a pony," but by his own reckoning he's "better looking, and much more interesting." Because of his enormous size and lack of speed, Snail worries that a cruel Snail Hunter will put him in a cage or, worse, a French restaurant. He goes in search of a child who can be his owner, and sets his mind on a skateboarding boy: " 'I'll ask him,' said Snail, 'because he's alone, like me.' " The boy is startled and skeptical at first, but Snail wins him over by giving him a ride and doing tricks ("I think talking is my best trick of all, though, don't you?" Snail asks politely). When it rains, Snail invites the boy under the cover of his shell, thus proving an eminently practical pet. McGuirk (Tucker Flips) relies on understatement to tell this absurdist tale; if not for his power of speech and his species, Snail would be no more exotic than an oafish Labrador retriever. The author's naïve ink-line drawings float in empty, undecorated fields of opaque color, and the tall pages appear too spacious for such simple contents. McGuirk's ingenuous characters and illustrations recall the quirky comedy of Neal Layton, while her amiable plot, in which an unusual animal yearns to become a pet, echoes last fall's more poignant That Pesky Rat by Lauren Child. Ages 3-7. (June)