Friday, 16 May 2014

Watch Out, Snail! Review and Giveaway

I was lucky enough to be sent one of the picture book Finalists from the New Zealand Post Book Awards Watch Out, Snail! by Gay Hay and Margaret Tolland to review with the help of my preschoolers. Since my son had just gone mad for insects after studying them at Kindergarten I knew that Watch Out, Snail! would be right up his alley, in fact both my Son 4.5 and Daughter 2.5 loved it.

The first thing that grabs you when you pick up the cover and start reading the book is the glossy slightly raised shell of the Powelliphanta snails, my children and I noticed this straight away and immediately started to trace the shape of the snails spiral shell. The shell has been printed with a smooth film over the illustration and on every page my children's hands were drawn to it. I love the idea of a tactile representation in books that may encourage a more tactile learner to be involved and engaged in the story as well.

"Darkness is a time for hunting"

The forest sets the scene for this picture book and the epic battle of snail and worm, and the dangers the snail faces from other creatures. The book teaches us about the circle of life within nature, it is true to the world of the Powelliphanta snails and includes an array of animal, birds and insects that live in the bush. For my younger daughter the creatures were the main interest for her in this book. The illustrator has done a beautiful job, sometimes the whole creature is represented on a page but sometimes it might be part of its feet, or tail or snout. The perspective also changes on each page, so that you see the scene from different viewpoints. My daughter delighted in finding the creatures hidden away in the native forest and learning all their names, the changing perspective on each page meant she had to look at each page anew.

"Snails the winner, worms the dinner"

 The snail eating the earthworm highlights the main characteristic of this native snail and allows children to then explore the differences between the Powelliphanta snails and your normal garden snail. My son wanted to know why the snail was eating the worm, why is it carnivorous? what does this mean, why does it have teeth? Luckily the author has included information about the Powelliphanta snail in two parts in the back of the book. Two pages of information with pictures for younger children and then more text information in the back for those older children and slightly older than that readers...(MUM!) There is also a small glossary of Maori words for some of the creatures in the book, which is another great resource for learning.

Photo taken at Denniston Plateau

Glistens, shimmering, gnarly, twitching, fossicks, rasping are just some of the words used in this book The language that makes the story work so well is descriptive and expressive, it opens children up to new words they may not have come across and poetically sets the scene and sounds of the native forest at night.

Overall my children and I really enjoyed Watch Out, Snail! the beautiful creative language and stunning artwork kept all ages absorbed in the story, from the two year old spotting creatures to the 4.5 year old learning about this great native snail, even Mum learnt a thing or two! The only thing I would have liked is Powelliphanta sounded out, because every time I say Powelliphanta it comes out a little differently!

I was kindly sent a copy of this book to review, but the opinions in the review are all my own.

To win your own copy of  Watch Out, Snail! please just leave a comment below telling me your favorite New Zealand native creature.

Competition is for New Zealand and Australian Residents only. 

Closes 23rd of May


  1. I have so many favourites, but I'm enjoying some fantails flitting about my clothes line lately! They seem so friendlly.

  2. I think I like pukekos the best. They're one cool-looking bird.

  3. Fantails are definitely my favourite

  4. Paraphanta snails!

  5. I love keas, so much personality. I am also fond of watching fantails playing.

  6. Bethlehem i think you will find that pukekos are australian imports....therefore your entry is invalid....ha ha. I like tuis the best. Plus it is my sons middle name so i am a double winner. Thankyou.

    1. Boo to you Genevieve Sanders. While Wiki informs me that is one theory, also: "East Coast Māori say they were brought to New Zealand on the Horouta canoe which arrived about 24 generations ago. The Aotea tribe of the West Coast say the Pūkeko was introduced by their ancestors in a boat called the Aotea.". Plus, it has a Maori name which, along with the aforementioned, I say gives it authentic "native" status. In Maori metaphor "A stubborn, annoying person was compared metaphorically to the bird, and was said to have Pūkeko ears (taringa Pākura)." Therefore, you are a native pukeko. Boom. I vote you be disqualified for daring to question my entry.

    2. Oooooo burrrrn me! Alright alright you can have your lame wee entry. You have obviously been hardcore googling! You have to admit though they are quite a new addition compared to our " proper" native creatures.

  7. For me it's the microscopic land snails that no-one knows much about, but who have wonderful sculptured shells...

  8. Kea's, love their personality


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