Great Illustrated Books

Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator

By Sarah C. Campbell

Boyds Mills Pr, 2008
Pages : 32
Suggested Ages: 4-8
ISBN: 1590785541

Years ago, when I was a new school librarian, a third grade boy came into the library. "Miss Freeman, do you have any books on the blue-footed booby?" he asked earnestly. "Very funny," I said. "No, really, do you have any books on the blue-footed booby?" "Ha, ha," I replied cheekily, certain he was trying to pull my leg. "Miss Freeman, it's a real bird!" he cried. He pulled from his pocket a three by five animal card, with a color photograph of a blue-footed booby, a bird with alarmingly pretty, powder blue feet that lives in the Galapagos Islands. I was flabbergasted. You know this kid. He's the subject specialist who likes to know everything about his chosen area of expertise. This guy knew his birds.

I learned a lot that day. I learned that I didn't know everything, but, working in a library, I could always find out more. (Nowadays, with the Internet, we have so many more facts at our fingertips, any time we get curious any little thing. What a boon for our kids who want their questions answered right now.) I've wanted to go to the Galapagos ever since, thanks to that boy. Whenever I find a fascinating new nonfiction book on a subject I heretofore knew nothing about, I call it a Blue-Footed Booby Book. Here's one. Ever heard of a wolfsnail? No? Me neither, until now.

Who knew mollusks could be so darn cute? Translucent close-up color photographs track a typical day in the life of a wolfsnail, emerging from its shell with its long, slimy foot outstretched. Readers will coo over the wolfsnail's graceful opalescent outstretched neck ending in four bluish tentacles, and a set of lip extensions that look like a handlebar mustache. Now watch it gliding along the green ridged leaf of a hosta plant. The wolfsnail doesn't eat plants. "The wolfsnail eats meat." It glides along the plant, following a slime trail. Oh, look-now it's found a nice little brown snail to play with. Oh, no! Our sweet big wolfsnail likes to eat . . . OTHER SNAILS! We watch it attack and munch daintily on the poor little snail, using the tiny teeth on its tongue, or radula-there's your new word for the day-leaving only the empty shell behind. Our sweet wolfsnail is just a cold-blooded killer, a Jack the Ripper of the snail world.

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If you love this book, then try:

Bishop, Nic. Nic Bishop Frogs. Scholastic, 2008.

Bishop, Nic. Nic Bishop Spiders. Scholastic, 2007.

Cowley, Joy. Chameleon, Chameleon. Scholastic, 2005.

Cowley, Joy. Red-Eyed Tree Frog. Scholastic, 1999.

Donaldson, Julia. The Snail and the Whale. Dial, 2004.

Edwards, Pamela Duncan. Some Smug Slug. HarperCollins, 1996.

French, Vivian. Growing Frogs. Candlewick, 2000.

Martin, James. Chameleons: Dragons in the Trees. Crown, 1991.

Pearson, Susan. Slugs in Love. Marshall Cavendish, 2006.

Rosoff, Meg. Jumpy Jack and Googily. Henry Holt, 2008.

Sill, Cathryn. About Mollusks: A Guide for Children. Peachtree, 2005.

Waddell, Martin. Hi, Harry! Candlewick, 2003.

Critics have said

In their first book, the Campbells tell a survival story that will help youngsters discover exciting nature in their own backyards and help them understand the role of predators in the natural cycle.
Campbell's terse, conversational text follows one such hunt on a damp spring day as a wolfsnail detects, tracks, and engulfs its prey, using its mustachio-style lip extensions as ultrasensory devices.
School Library Journal