The Snail with the Right Heart: A True Story

Enchanted Lion. Feb. 2021. 56p. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781592703494.
Gr 2-4–This long, complex science picture book begins with a poetic description of the ancient origin of snails. A mysterious event (mutation) caused living creatures to form in the ocean. Mutation is a theme throughout the text, with the featured snail demonstrating the effect of recessive genes. The book’s title might suggest that this is a story with a moral, but it’s a biological indication of this snail’s irregular physical characteristics. Its shell swirls to the left, unlike that of most snails, and its heart is located on the right rather than the left side of its body. Later on in the narrative, Dr. Angus Davidson asks everyday citizens to be on the lookout for other right-hearted snails for him to breed and study. Could such irregular genetic occurrences apply to humans? The text then explains snails’ sexual identity and how they reproduce. Snails are hermaphrodites: Their bodies are both male and female. However, two snails often copulate “because diversity is always lovelier than sameness, and because it makes communities stronger and more able to adapt to change.” Davidson’s attempts at breeding are anti-climactic. He does not find any new right-hearted snails, but someday this rarity could occur again. Zhu’s softly swirled paintings are rendered in shades of blue, green, orange, and yellow.
VERDICT The romantic and anthropomorphic aspects of the story and explanations will appeal to some adult readers, and some parents and teachers may find this useful for introductory discussions of genetics, diversity, or evolution with children.

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