“Snail’s Ark,” written by Irene Latham, illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini (GP Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, Feb. 8), ages 3-5, 32 pages, $18.99 hardcover, $10.99 ebook, $5 audio book.
Read to Me usually hands books on specific religions to Religion Editor Frank Lockwood because he has permanent dibbies. But sometimes a book aimed at one religion is so broadly appealing that it touches everyone, and sometimes the story originates in scripture and yet permeates the culture at large.
This is the case of “Snail’s Ark”, which opens a new perspective on Noah’s Ark.
This ancient story is associated with Christianity, Judaism, Islam and other Abrahamic religions, but is so widely understood that it can and has been used to sell tires on television. Who doesn’t know about the world-destroying flood and Noah, who built a huge boat in which the animals took refuge two by two?
Noah does not appear in “Snail’s Ark”. Instead, we follow a snail named Esther as she undertakes a perilous journey to reach the safety of the ark.
Esther wakes up with the feeling that something big is happening. In the past, she was able to snuggle up in her shell and ride out the storms, but as the animals scurry around her in pairs, the wind tells her she can’t this time. She must go to the ark.
Gradually, she finally sees the ark, but it’s scary. She decides to check on her friend Solomon before getting close to this giant thing. From there, “Snail’s Ark” becomes a story of friendship.
It is clear that Esther and Solomon are in grave danger when a small miracle occurs. All the other animals, who have safely gathered in the arch in front of them, cheer as they make a stunning arrival.
Snails say “Thank you”. And then they find a cozy nook and fall asleep as the wild sea swells.
Latham’s rhythmic text is well-described as lyrical, and its “hurry, hurry” chorus creates urgency. The rich colors and collage style of Amini’s illustrations please the eye while making the animal characters easier to understand.
Latham, who lives in Alabama, is a veteran children’s book author, best known for “The Cat Man of Aleppo,” which won a Caldecott honor. Amini, who grew up in Iran, lives in London. His work can also be seen in “Chicken in the Kitchen”, https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2022/mar/07/opinion-read-to-me-2-snails-struggle-to-reach/ “Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Color Book,” https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2022/mar/07/opinion-read-to-me-2-snails-struggle-to- reach /”A Moon for Moe and Mo” and other children’s books.
Read Me is a weekly review of short books.