I love to share what brings me great joy and delight. As an avid reader of picture books (it comes with the parenting territory), I occasionally find a great one I want to shout about from the rooftops. So this year, I’m going to bring you a picture book review each month of something that I (as a parent, former Montessori preschool teacher and aspiring picture book author) truly recommend. So here is my first review/recommendation for 2020.
As winter blues, cold and flu kick into high gear, a little way to combat these downers is a natural pick-me-up: laughter. It is an antidote to stress and discomfort. Tastes in humor vary widely, so I can’t guarantee my recommendations will align with yours, but I have recently encountered what I consider to be an absolute gem in the picture book world.
Escargot (2017), written by Dashka Slater and illustrated by Sydney Hanson, makes adults laugh as much if not more than children. And even if it doesn’t entice laughter, it will leave you speaking a little French “Ooh la la” and probably craving salad.
Written in the speak-to-the-audience style popularized by the Pigeon books by Mo Willems, Escargot is the story of a self-loving, carrot-loathing snail en route to enjoying a salad. The audience/reader is invited to interact, from making fierce faces to answering Escargot’s handful of questions (is your favorite animal the earwig or wildebeest?). This androgynous main character is engaging for girls and boys. Modeling healthy social skills such as good sportsmanship, self-confidence, interest in others and even some vulnerability, the reasons to love this book are vast. For as masterfully as Slater’s writing is, Hanson’s illustrations are equally delightful. Her colorful renderings take the reader on a mouth-watering tour across a picnic table filled with olives, cheeses, and of course, salad. Making a snail lovable in text and picture is no small feat.
This book begs to be read with a French accent, the worse the accent, the more you will laugh at yourself or whoever is reading, so don’t be shy, give it your best effort. Targeted for the 4-8 year old audience, my 2 year old daughter and 44 year old husband love this book; it truly speaks to all ages. It engages the older reader with its francophilial flare and absurdity, the young audience with opportunities to interact with the “beautiful’’ and charming Escargot.
Next time you are looking for a good bedtime story, need a gift for a young child, or just want a light-hearted escape from a dreary day, you need look no further than Escargot.