Saturday, 16 March 2019


Hazel and the Snails by Nan Blanchard, illustrated by Giselle Clarkson    {Reviewed by STELLA}
 The first book off the press for Annual Ink under the umbrella of Massey University Press is a gentle and thoughtful story about a young girl, her love of her snails, and mortality. Hazel is collecting snails, ten of them to be precise. They are friends who aren’t sulking like her older brother, who don’t always wear pink like her friend Meg, and are not telling her to be quiet while Dad is having a lie-down. Told in the voice of a young child, the author Nan Blanchard gets the tone just right. Descriptions of people and happenings, the imaginary wanderings of a child and the silliness of children’s games and wordplay make the setting familiar and comfortable for a young reader. Hazel hassles her brother; describes her two grandmas to perfection (down to their turning up in wet togs with their coats on top because it’s just too hot = damp hugs); has a funny time at the supermarket with Mum when a the woman in purple runs into a stack of post-Christmas shortbread biscuits, sending the tins rolling down the aisle; and hides in the woodshed when the going gets tough. The snails live in the shoe-box and go most places with her - to school, to Meg’s house, to the beach. She cares for them and worries about whether they are happy or not. Do they like the rain? Are they lonely? In this quiet and simple story, there are funny and sad moments. It is a story about being a child and seeing the world from this - sometimes quirky - perspective. It is about illness and mortality and would be useful for any child that has the need for a story that they can relate to, and for any child who has questions. Gentle, thoughtful and undeniably charming, Blanchard has created a compassionate tale, with Hazel, a young child, at its centre - a child who is full of life and questions. It reminds us that children understand more than maybe they let on. Reminiscent of Rose Lagercrantz’s 'Dani' series, it has the same lightness of touch without avoiding life’s rollercoaster of experiences and the impact that this has on all, especially the youngest in our lives. Playful language, delightful descriptions (with a few words much is conveyed) and illustrations (note the snail on the foot of each page) provide the icing on the cake. A debut author to watch. 

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