Newbery medalist Avi (Crispin) returns to animal fantasy with this gently humorous tale about two travelers in search of excitement, an earlier version of which appeared as a beginning reader (Snail Tale: The Adventures of a Rather Small Snail, 1972). Avon the snail wants adventures like the characters he reads about in books. He sets aside caution and heads out, immediately meeting Edward, a cocksure ant who has (mostly wrong) answers for all of Avon's worries. Avi's droll wit spices the rather quiet journey, as when Edward goes to formally greet his new friend: "When he realized Avon did not have hands, he shook one of his own. `Pleased to meet you,' he said." Careful listeners will figure out the travelers' trip consists of the length of a long branch and will enjoy being in the know when Avon and Edward clearly aren't. What qualifies as excitement for this pair may not raise goose bumps on anybody else's skin-they mistake a mouse for a dragon ("good dragons disguise themselves as nice creatures, and bad dragons as nasty ones," Ant explains), and must "battle" an oncoming snail in order to pass one another on the narrow branch. But the bite-size chapters and the clever repartee make this a charming tale, and the occasional, slightly anthropomorphized pencil illustrations show Avon and Edward to be the friendliest of creatures. All ages. (Oct.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Avon, a small snail, becomes convinced that because storybooks always end with the characters being happy, he needs to have an adventure to find happiness. Joined by his neighbor, an ant named Edward, Avon sets off on to find adventure. On their way, they meet a mouse that they think is a dragon, a caterpillar building a cocoon (who turns into a butterfly with no memory of being a caterpillar), and a cricket that needs a song and ends up singing silently. When Avon encounters another snail going the opposite way on a branch, it is a race to see who will win the right of way on the branch. Edward misses the crucial moment when the snails will meet, and sees only Avon and the other snail going the opposite way. When asked what happened, Avon responds, "I don't know. It all happened so quickly." That type of dry humor characterizes the entire book. Tusa's simple yet elegant black and white drawings accent the book perfectly. Edward and Avon are this generation's Frog and Toad. This book is touching without being cloying, witty without being sarcastic; Avi has created a masterpiece for all ages. 2004, Harcourt, Ages 6 up.
Amie Rose Rotruck
Gr 3 Up-A charming modern fable. Avon the snail's voracious reading convinces him that having an adventure is the key to a happy life so he sets out on a journey with his new friend, Edward the ant. In a series of very short chapters, the two travel-at a snail's pace-the length of a branch, meeting another snail, a caterpillar, a worm, a cricket, a salamander, and a mouse (whom Edward and Avon are sure is a dragon in disguise). Many insights unfold: "here" and "there" are not much different; while getting lost is easy, it's finding one's self that's hard; whether rushing or going slowly, one still arrives; and it is important to look at the world with one's heart and not just with one's eyes. The book is full of plays on "beginning" and "end." Until Avon and Edward help the worm, he is unsure which is his front and which is his back, and is doomed to a life without end. When they reach the end of the branch, are they actually at the end of the sky and the beginning of the branch? Avon and Edward turn around and head back, coming to a house that looks magically like Avon's own. The friends decide to live together in this magic castle. And so, true to the book's title, the beginning of their friendship ends. Whimsical pen-and-ink sketches add much to this wise little book. It's perfect for reading and discussing.-Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Avon, a snail whose reading tastes run to adventure, longs for a real journey of his own. Setting out, he promptly meets his neighbor, an ant named Edward, who offers to accompany Snail on the expedition. Readers who remember the way that Mole sets out with Ratty, or the way Bilbo Baggins leaves home, or even those who remember their first adventures in the neighborhood will recognize these two for small creatures with large spirits. Their friendship is complicated by the little differences that friends discover-and cemented by shared interpretations of the bit of the world they encounter. Though they only reach the end of the branch, they meet some interesting fellow creatures, and their world grows immeasurably bigger, as many explorers and adventurers before them have discovered. Avi has reworked material from his Snail Tale (Pantheon, 1972), and the results have a charming gravity and affectionate tone. The compact, simple text is readable in a large font with great spacing; the small trim size and Tusa's graceful, whimsical black-and-white drawings suit the contents perfectly. (Fiction. 4-10)
"A charming tale."--Publishers Weekly
"A story that begs to be read aloud."--Booklist