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Matisse’s Magical Trail


Tim Hopgood, illus. Sam Boughton
Age 5-7 years

Matisse is an artistic snail creating drawings while everyone sleeps. Although adults passing by ignore his artwork, one day a little boy called Leo discovers his creations and shows his friends.  The children are very impressed and gather objects for Matisse to decorate. He creates a trail from one object to the next and onto the wall. When their teacher sees the trail, she encourages her class to add colour to it, transforming the school and amazing passers-by.

This is a lovely picture book about creativity and working together, showing how small changes to the environment can have a transformational effect. It may inspire your child to find out about snails, be creative themselves and perhaps find out about the artist Matisse (particularly his famous snail collage).


Share the story

Read aloud
Read the story aloud to your child making sure you pause to spot the snail included on most of the double page spreads.

Join in
When your child becomes familiar with the story you could encourage them to join in, perhaps with the conversations. You could add some imaginary conversations too – what might Leo’s friends say for example, when they see Matisse’s handiwork?

Talk about the story

  • Share and talk about your favourite pages

  • Is there anything you or your child wonder about the story, for example why the adults passing by don’t notice Matisse’s art work?

  • Do you know any walls or buildings which have been decorated with artwork? This might be at their school, park or elsewhere in the local community.

  • What does your child know about snails? Pool what you know. Is there anything they would like to find out?

Things to make and do

Be a snail detective
When you are out and about look out for snail trails on walls or paths together. You may spot some snails too. Talk about what you see.

Make an information book about snails
What does your child know about snails? What would they like to find out? Give them a small zig zag book to fill with pictures and information about snails. See the links below to find out more.

Make a snail trail picture
Dribble glue in swirls and lines onto a large sheet of sugar (ideally dark coloured) paper then sprinkle glitter on top and shake off.  NB This is a messy activity, so you will need to lay out plenty of newspaper before starting.

Decorate a pebble
Collect large pebbles use a felt tip pen to create designs on them. Make a display of your pebbles to show friends and family.

Make a collage like Matisse
Using coloured tissue paper or paper they have painted in different colours your child can cut or tear shapes and then arrange them to make a colourful collage picture. They might choose to make a snail or maybe something else. See here

Find out more

Read more books by writer/illustrator Tim Hopgood

Titles include:

‘Wow!’ said the Owl

Tip Tap went the Crab

Walter’s Wonderful Web


Read more books by writer/illustrator Sam Boughton 

Titles include:

The Extraordinary Gardener

Hello Mr Dinosaur!


Find out more about snails.

Explore this website and watch the video to find out about snails

Look at this close up picture of a snail  and talk about the different parts of a snail’s body

Find out more about the artist Henri Matisse 

If you are able to visit the Tate Modern Gallery in London you could visit to have a look at Matisse’s famous snail collage.