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The Snail and the Whale

Julia Donaldson,  Alex Scheffler (illus)
Age 3-7

A very tiny snail seeking adventure sails around the world balanced on the tail of a huge, humpback whale. The story and pictures describe their travels past icebergs, volcanoes, islands and coral caves, until the whale loses its way and becomes beached on land. The tiny snail decides she needs to help. This is a story which suggests however small you are and however big the world is you can make a difference. There is lots to look at in the varied landscapes and the humour and rhyme make this a great book for reading aloud and re reading.


Share the storywhale

Read aloud Before reading the story, encourage children to look at the cover, the back and front, and to talk about what they see. What do they think the story will be about? If the characters/animals were speaking, what might they be saying?

Join in As you read and reread the book, encourage children to join in with the reading, especially with the repeated patterns. If you pause before the rhyming word, children can guess the rhyme.

Talk  about the story Which pages did children like? Discuss and share favourites together. Where would children like to go if they were the snail?

How did the whale and the snail feel at different points in the story? Children might talk about being big, doing ‘big’ things or being and feeling small.

What do children know about snails and whales? See the links below in our ‘Find out More’ section.

Tell the story Using the pictures in the book to help them, children can turn the pages and tell the story in their own words.

Watch the Story

From Storyvision Studios UK 

Things to make and do

Make a model snail
Using the pictures in the book or  websites or by looking at real shells make a snail from modelling material. You could do this together and talk about the spiral shape.

Make a scene from the story

Use a large tray (a builder’s tray is ideal for this) or a sand and water tray to create a seascape for the snail’s adventures. You can add sand, gravel, twigs and rocks.Children can help you add water and arrange the scene.  Add a toy whale and your model snail. You can use your scene to retell all or part of the story together.

You could make icebergs with your child by putting water in different shaped containers in a freezer to add to the scene and talk about what happens when the ice melts. To make a homemade volcano see here

Write a speech bubble
What do snail and whale say to each other when they first meet? Have an imaginary conversation then children can write their own speech bubbles for snail and the whale.

Persuade the snail
Help snail to decide what to do. Should she go sailing with whale or stay with her friends? Look at the beginning section of the story where whale says, ”Come sail with me”.

Think together about 2 or 3 reasons why snail should go with whale, for example: Go because you’ll see the world and have adventures!

Then think of 2 or 3 reasons why her friends want snail to stay on the rock, for example: Don’t go we’ll miss you so!

What would children decide if they were snail?

Send a postcard
Snail wants to send a postcard to her friends to tell them about the places she’s visited.

Using the postcard template, children can draw a picture of their favourite place snail visits and write a message.


Find out more

Read more about books by Julia Donaldson here

Titles include:

* The Gruffalo

A Squash and a Squeeze

* Room on the Broom

The Stick Man
*Tyrannosaurus Drip

* See more lovemybooks ideas

Find out about whales and snails
Use websites and books to find out more about humpback whales and snails. Just how big is a humpback whale compared with a bus? To find out more about humpback whales look here.

To find out about sea snails look here.


Buy here