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The Snail and the Whale

Last updated Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Author: Julia Donaldson
Date of Publication:
ISBN: 0803729227
Grade Level: 1st    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Feb. 2006

Synopsis: A tiny mollusk that longs to see the world hitches a ride aboard a humpback whale in this charming picture book. After seeing far-off islands, underwater caves, and storm-filled skies, the snail feels impossibly small--until the whale is beached in a harbor, and she saves the day by writing a note on the blackboard of a nearby school to summon help. The message that even the smallest among us can help others will not be lost on children, and neither will the poetic language: "A humpback whale, immensely long,/Who sang to the snail a wonderful song/Of shimmering ice and coral caves/And shooting stars and enormous waves." Donaldson's smooth, sprightly rhyming scheme buoys the story and never falters. The flat, cartoonish look of Scheffler's multimedia illustrations perfectly complements the tone of the text.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  Do you have a best friend? Who is it and can you describe him/her?
•  What makes a person a good friend?
•  What kinds of nice things do you do for your friends?
•  What kinds of animals do you see on the cover of this book?

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  How big is a snail? A whale?
•  What does the snail want to do in her life?
•  What does the whale offer the snail? Would you go with the whale? Why or why not?
•  Where do the whale and snail go? Which place would you want to go?
•  What other animals do they see?
•  How does the snail end up helping the whale? What adjectives describe the snail?
•  Why do the other snails join the whale in the end?

Craft ideas:
•  Create your own ocean scene. Color in a Styrofoam tray with waves on the bottom and add animals to the scene. Then cover it with saran wrap to make it look like an aquarium. Bring ahead option: Styrofoam tray and saran wrap.
•  Make puppets of the snail and the whale and act out the story.

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don’t have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!