Fans of Graeme Base’s intricate picture books will be pleased to know that his latest is just as gorgeously detailed as Animalia and The Eleventh Hour. The Legend of The Golden Snail follows the intrepid Wilbur (and his trusty cat) as they set off on the trail of a mollusc that has been transformed into an enormous galleon, ‘a snailing ship’, and banished to the Ends of the Earth by a Grand Enchanter. Bases’ illustrations are as big, bright and beautiful as ever, and young readers (ages four to eight) will be enchanted to see the weird and wonderful creatures that Wilbur encounters on his trip, including a crab the size of an island and earwig pirates aboard a ‘bulbous bottle boat’ trying to harness the lighbulbs of the unfortunate lantern fish. Adults too will enjoy reading out loud the alliterative prose, the ‘maze of madness’, ‘slithering sea’ and ‘dreadful doldrums’. There is a simple moral in the narrative: all the animals that Wilbur helps out along the way end up repaying his kindness when he runs into strife. As for the fate of the Golden Snail, well there is a twist there as well.
Thuy On is a Melbourne-based freelance writer and reviewer. This review first appeared in the 2010 Term 3 issue of Junior Bookseller+Publisher.