by Graeme Base
Wilbur’s favorite story is about a snail that takes the shape of a golden galleon when it sails through the Magical Realm. Captured by the Grand Enchanter, the Golden Snail must obey his commands for 100 years, after which it is banished to the Ends of the Earth until a new master can claim it by reciting the magical spell. Wilbur decides to find the Golden Snail, and, packing an odd assortment of things, he and his faithful cat set off in a small sailboat. The story follows the pattern of many traditional folktales. As Wilbur travels, he comes upon creatures in need of help. Though he feels he is being distracted from his mission, his kind heart prevails, and each of those odd items proves to be just what’s needed. His watering can helps quench the thirst of the wilting blossoming butterfly bush, etc. In turn, each rescued creature comes to Wilbur’s aid when he is in trouble. With his mission finally accomplished, Wilbur decides it is better to be a Gallant Captain than a Grand Enchanter. While the story is nothing new, the telling is fresh, with many original and inventive touches, and Base’s writing is well-paced and lively. The real standout is the artwork: well-composed, large paintings that are rich in detail but never look cluttered. As is usual with Base, there is a game to be played, this time finding a golden snail and crossbones in each picture. This beautiful book is sure to be a hit with the author’s fans and cultivate new ones.