Monday 11 December 2023

Henry The Snail

Henry The Snail by Katrina Macurova (Albatross Books) PB HB RRP $27.99 9788000067933

Reviewed by Karen Hendriks

Katrina Macurova was born in Bratislava and studied Graphics and Illustration at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava. She has won several prestigious awards, including the Communication Arts Award of Excellence in the USA.

Henry the snail didn’t have slime. He couldn’t climb like other snails, so he decided to train and get strong to climb his own unique way.

Macurova has written a quiet story that leaves a strong message. Not everybody comes into the world at the same starting point. Henry doesn’t give up on his dream to climb even though he can’t make it happen as easily as the others. Henry is introduced beautifully. The last rain was still dripping from the leaves…when Henry the snail first saw the light of day.

Macurova shows that Henry is different rather than tells. Boom! Bam!... he came crashing down. Henry’s actions show persistence, courage, and determination. So everyday he exercised… by dragging pebbles…lifting peas… and balancing peach pits on his belly. The verbs match a snail’s movements and are varied. Little touches of humour bring a smile but also give depth to Henry as a character. He could even do a headstand on a cherry.

The story arc builds with Henry getting stronger and then attempting to climb. A second character isn’t introduced until Henry can go no further than halfway. Then we meet Slug who helps Henry reach the top. It might be assumed now that Henry can climb, that he doesn’t need any help. But there is a clever turn of events. Whenever he ran out of energy, he always found a willing helper. He saw no shame in that. The story doesn’t end with Henry achieving his goal. A good picture book always leaves a surprise and this one doesn’t disappoint. Henry wants to help others too and shares his stunts which everyone else learns the best they can.

The illustrations are mainly garden shades of greens, browns, greys with some pops of red. The cover instantly shows that this is a garden story about a snail. The addition of a lush red cherry really draws the eye. Henry’s movements and facial expressions create personality. The use of a blade of grass shows attempts and fails very cleverly.

Macurova uses Henry’s feelers in a hand-like way to climb. His size is small in comparison to his surroundings, and this shows how hard it is for Henry to achieve his goal. Perspectives in the story change according to the text to add more story meaning and layering. I love that you can just look at this book and read the story. The images and text work in harmony and for a quiet story the images really have a strong impact and add humour.

Henry The Snail is a Czech Republic picture book for children from 3 to 5 years that shows that deep inside we want to be like everyone else and fit in. This determined small snail decides to act and overcome his handicap. His quest is solitary, but his difference opens new horizons. Henry The Snail does have a universal appeal to parents, librarians, and schools. This book is available in Armenian, Bulgarian, Catalan, Spanish, Complex Chinese, English, French, German, Korean, Simplified Chinese.


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