cover image The Legend of the Golden Snail

The Legend of the Golden Snail

Graeme Base, Abrams, $19.95 (48p) ISBN 978-0-8109-8965-8

A fantastical nautical adventure unwinds seamlessly in Base's (Animalia) sumptuous, large-format picture book. Wilbur's favorite storybook—a miniature facsimile of which is attached to the title page—tells of a giant snail transformed into a "golden galleon: a Snailing Ship." Legend has it that a Grand Enchanter put the snail under a spell and later banished it to the Ends of the Earth, where it awaits a new master. Determined to be that person, Wilbur and his cat set sail ("Back in a hundred years," he tells his mother), wearing a piratelike hat bearing a "snail 'n' crossbones," an image Base hides in each painting. Along the way, Wilbur helps eccentric creatures in distress (such as lantern fish with actual light bulbs), who guide him on his perilous mission in return. Characteristically, Base's art steers the journey, alternating between action scenes and spectacular seascapes that reveal Wilbur's tiny vessel alone on a vast ocean, against dazzling skies. With a denouement that's in keeping with Wilbur's oft-demonstrated kindness, this is a beguiling excursion for adventurers of any age. Ages 4–8. (Oct.)