Of shimmering ice and coral caves

20 Jul

One of the deepest and most unexpected joys of parenthood has been reading aloud.  I’ve always loved books, so was looking forward to sharing them with my future children, but I’d never considered how wonderful it would be to say beautiful words out loud with a small, warm, child curled on my lap.  We’ve shared old favourites like Eloise, Ferdinand and Ballet Shoes, and I’ve discovered new favourites like the Gruffalo.  I think it would be fair to say that I worship Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler.  Her words and his pictures combine to make some of the most gorgeous books I have ever read, and I have read a lot.

I came to The Snail and the Whale quite late in my love affair with Julia and Axel.  We’d read a number of their titles before I bought it a moment of completism.  Its purchase coincided with the germ of the idea to go travelling, and I have never read a more compelling argument for leaving home to explore the world.

The words are gently rhyming and they ebb and flow in a rhythm like the pull of the tide.  Reading them aloud, making the sounds with my mouth, is like a form of poetic meditation.  They tell the story of a sea snail with an itchy foot who hitches a ride on the tail of a humpback whale.  Together they travel the world, experiencing it’s natural wonders, towering icebergs and far-off lands, with fiery mountains and golden sands.  There’s mild peril, a heroic act and a satisfying resolution at the end, everything you could want from a book.

So when I read this week’s Gallery prompt, “A Novel Idea”, I knew straight away that this was the book I wanted to do.  This book, which is inspiring my itinerary planning, this book which is subliminally teaching my children the excitement of itchy feet.  I have lots of photos I could have chosen, from trips we’ve already taken, but nothing appealed.  Nothing that truly expresses the love I feel for this book, a love which is tied up with the joy of sharing it with my children.  And I realised that the only pictures I could use to illustrate this post are pictures I have not taken yet.  Pictures that I shall be taking on the trip that I’ll be sharing with my children.  Pictures of volcanos, glaciers, beaches, rainforests, deserts.  Pictures of shimmering ice and coral caves.

I’ll keep you posted.


32 Responses to “Of shimmering ice and coral caves”

  1. dawniebrown 20/07/2010 at 12:49 pm #

    I was wondering what this book was about after somebody guessed one of my photos this week represented the Snail and the Whale – it sounds lovely I shall add it to my “to buy” list 🙂

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 20/07/2010 at 2:12 pm #

      Oh yes, do, I can’t recommend it highly enough!

  2. Deer Baby 20/07/2010 at 12:51 pm #

    That’s lovely Victoria. The perfect book choice for you. And I love the fact that the pictures are waiting to be taken. I’m a big fan of theirs too – The Gruffalo being a particular fave.

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 20/07/2010 at 2:12 pm #

      It just kind of seemed right.

  3. Trish@ Mum's Gone to 20/07/2010 at 12:59 pm #

    Ooh how perfectly tantalising! Can’t wait.

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 20/07/2010 at 2:12 pm #

      The suspense…

  4. Laura 20/07/2010 at 1:03 pm #

    I love Julia and Axel (makes it sound like they are friends of mine). I love the Snail and the Whale but my favourite is Tiddler.

    I’ve always loved to read to the kids, and did so from when they were tiny babies. Now my 6 year old reads to me … with great gusto.

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 20/07/2010 at 2:11 pm #

      I am very very fond of tiddler too. But it’s not my favourite ending, don’t know why.

  5. OwainDodo 20/07/2010 at 1:07 pm #

    Love this book. I can probably recite it from memory. But every time I get to “And they sang to the sea as they all set sail / On the tail of the grey-blue humpback whale”, I get a little sad that it’s finished.

    And then I remember that I can probably convince my 3-year-old that it’d be a good idea to read it again the next night. Brilliant!

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 20/07/2010 at 2:09 pm #

      It is quite a sad ending, but also hopeful. Get me, it’s a children’s book! But a very good one.

  6. kailexness 20/07/2010 at 1:17 pm #

    I’m a huge fan too, (you could have name dropped Dawnie!) I love all their books, the snail and the whale and room on the broom are pretty high up on the list as favourites but the one I love best like Laura is Tiddler.

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 20/07/2010 at 2:10 pm #

      I wonder what happened to our copy of the Room on the Broom? Haven’t read it for ages…

  7. Chris 20/07/2010 at 1:18 pm #

    Brilliant! The Snail and the Whale is one of those rare perfect books for children and adults to share, the ones that stay in your mind. How wonderful that you have it in yours as you prepare for your fantastic adventure (it was always one of our Boaty books…and will be again when once more we set sail, finances permitting, next year)I can’t wait to see the photos and to hear all about it as you go.

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 20/07/2010 at 1:37 pm #

      It really is a great one for adults too. The descriptions of the beauties of the natural world are so spare and gorgeous, can sum up an entire landscape in one line.

  8. eggscreamandhoney 20/07/2010 at 1:23 pm #

    That is so so so lovely! How right you are about the joys of reading to your children. I have always loved it and even carried it on to “big books” although less so now. I’ve not read the snail and the whale but I might have to go and buy it now.

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 20/07/2010 at 1:35 pm #

      I’m reading Ballet Shoes to Eve at the moment. I really enjoy revisiting my childhood favourites.

  9. Mirka Moore 21/07/2010 at 8:47 am #

    Lovely post, sounds very inspiring, have to check that book out 😉

  10. Booperkit 21/07/2010 at 9:27 am #

    Another to add to my reading list, thanks for that.

  11. Him Up North 21/07/2010 at 9:28 am #

    Looking forward to seeing your work. Is it too late to volunteer as a bag carrier? 🙂

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 21/07/2010 at 10:28 am #

      We currently have a whole retinue of bag carriers, the more the merrier. Babysitting duties also required.

  12. bubbleboo 21/07/2010 at 10:57 am #

    What a beautiful post. It has been on my ‘to-read’ list for a while. I shall now bump it up to the top 🙂

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 21/07/2010 at 9:48 pm #

      Thank you

  13. blissfulmum 21/07/2010 at 1:01 pm #

    What a great choice – The Snail & The Whale is a much loved favourite in our house too! Such a beautiful story and so well written – I read it quietly and slowly to my boys & it calms them down before bedtime!

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 21/07/2010 at 9:47 pm #

      It’s very soothing to read.

  14. Paula 21/07/2010 at 3:00 pm #

    A perfect post. So many exciting adventures ahead of you… I love the Donaldson / Scheffler pairing too, so many faves have come from that stable x

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 21/07/2010 at 9:46 pm #

      Blimey, that’s quite some compliment. I thank you very much x

  15. nappyvalleygirl 21/07/2010 at 4:44 pm #

    We love that book in our house too, and it is the perfect tale for someone with wanderlust….

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 21/07/2010 at 9:47 pm #

      It really is!

  16. Rachael (Tales from the Village) 27/07/2010 at 8:30 pm #

    Oh, this is so beautiful (yes I know I’m ages late, but I’m grabbing a moment to catch up on my blog reading). I can’t wait to see these photographs. My travels as a child have stayed with me – the smells of Singapore, the sounds of our time in Australia, the feeling of the black volcanic sand of Indonesia between my toes. Travel is such a gift. I’m so excited for you!


  1. Tweets that mention Of shimmering ice and coral caves « It's a small world after all -- Topsy.com - 20/07/2010

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Victoria Wallop and Victoria Wallop, Susie . Susie said: RT @vwallop: Gallery post, which is long on words and short on pictures… http://wp.me/psaAB-EN > beautiful […]

  2. Of shimmering ice and coral caves « words and pictures - 21/02/2012

    […] of time, when the world was young and I didn’t have wrinkles, I had the cheek to write a Gallery Post that didn’t include photos.  The theme was ‘A Novel Idea’ and it was supposed to be photos inspired by a […]

  3. Great Children's Books for Summer Reading | Tots 100 - 22/07/2013

    […] my children love Tyrannosaurus Drip, for its gorgeous illustrations, pacy rhyme and dinosaurs!  Another Julia Donaldson book I love is The Snail and the Whale, possibly the finest travel book for small children, ever.  The Good […]

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