Alison Green Books. First published 2012
An imprint of Scholastic Children’s Books
Will Buckingham and Thomas Docherty
“The Snorgh and the Sailor” has classic-of-the-future written all over it.
Not only are the illustrations mesmerising but the story is sure-footed enough to withstand literary fashions, such is the strength of the tale about seizing the day and taking a leap into the unknown.
Of course, the theme about stepping outside one’s comfort zone, with all the adventures it brings, would not be so successful were it not so delightfully juxtaposed with a pessimistic and grumpy central character – the Snorgh – who is a real ‘stick in the mud.’
He is a web-footed, shaggy-haired, elephant-trunked creature of habit who lives, we are told, in an ugly little house of the marsh.
Every day he shuffles along the shoreline picking samphire to make salty soup which he eats all alone in his chair by the fire.
Despite leading what is evidently a miserable-looking, lonely existence, he thinks himself fortunate.
“How lucky I am,” he muttered, “to have nobody to share my fire.” He took a slurp of his salty soup. “How nice,” he said, “to have my soup to myself.”
Enter, stage centre, the sailor – a naïve, enthusiastic and optimistic hare – who is about to turn the rigid and inflexible Snorgh’s world upside down.
During a wild storm, one night, the bedraggled creature washes up at the Snorgh’s shack.
“Hello” said the creature. “I’m a sailor. My boat has been washed ashore in the storm. Can I come in?”
“No,” said the Snorgh. “Snorghs don’t have visitors.”
“But you’ve got such a nice house!” said the sailor, and he marched right in.
He sat down in the Snorgh’s chair and warmed his toes by the fire.
The Snorgh harrumphed and went and sat in the bath.
When he asks to share the Snorgh’s soup, the Snorgh replies:
“Snorghs don’t share soup.”
But the sailor had already helped himself.
When he enquires if the Snorgh would like to hear about his adventures, the Snorgh says:
“No, thank you. Snorghs don’t like adventures.”
But the sailor told him anyway. The Snorgh pretended not to listen.”
When the clock strikes eight, in the middle of the sailor’s most exciting story, the Snorgh abruptly announces it is bedtime.
“Snorghs always sleep at eight o’clock.”
In the morning, after a wonderful night’s sleep dreaming dreams more colourful and wonderful than any Snorgh has dreamed before, he wakes to find the sailor gone.
Although he is ready to hear the rest of the sailor’s story, he spies his boat sailing over the horizon.
So desperate is he to hear the next instalment, the Snorgh grabs his bath and launches himself out to sea in pursuit.
The next three double page spreads work wonderfully well with small children who hear the story but read the pictures.
And it’s at this point the words and pictures diverge to tell different tales.
When he was far out to sea, he suddenly ran aground.
“Who put that island there?” he muttered.
Only the island isn’t an island – but an enormous whale – previously referred to in the sailor’s story.
Young children like to know ‘they’re in on the secret.’
In a subsequent page, an enormous wave turns out to be a sea monster.
Of course, the Snorgh doesn’t know this and is busy chasing the sailor saying:
“I need to know what the sea monster did!”
The pair do meet again, on dry land, where the sailor is making soup on the beach.
Despite offering the Snorgh a bowlful, the Snorgh insists he has merely come to hear the end of the sailor’s story.
He stamps his foot and cries: “But I have to know what happens next!”
Scratching his chin, the sailor replies:“Well, in that case, you’ll just have to come with me. We set sail at dawn.”
The story wraps with illustrations of the pair sailing into the sunset, with the sailor towing Snorgh in his bath.
They are then seen enjoying a variety of exotic adventures like skiing, hot air ballooning and camel riding.
The text reads: And what an extraordinary story it turned out to be!
To my mind, “The Snorgh and the Sailor” is a picture book which deserves to stand the test of time.
Its message to children says ‘sometimes it’s necessary to step outside your comfort zone’ if you are to reap the rewards of fun, friendship and the very best adventures that life has to offer.
A classic bedtime ‘Snorghy’, ideal for 4-6 year-olds.