★ A Kirkus Best Book of 2021: A Best Informational Picture Book
★ A Marginalian (formerly Brain Pickings) Best Children’s Book of 2021
★ A Spirituality & Practice Best Spiritual Book of 2021
Based on a real scientific event and inspired by a beloved real human in the author’s life, this is a story about science and the poetry of existence...
The Snail with the Right Heart is a story about time and chance, genetics and gender, love and death, evolution and infinity—concepts often too abstract for the human mind to fathom, often more accessible to the young imagination; concepts made fathomable in the concrete, finite life of one tiny, unusual creature dwelling in a pile of compost amid an English garden. Emerging from this singular life is a lyrical universal invitation not to mistake difference for defect and to welcome, across the accordion scales of time and space, diversity as the wellspring of the universe’s beauty and resilience.
This boldly illustrated book about evolution for children features a large gatefold that opens up to immerse readers in the story and will help kids understand that nature is all about differentiation and that being different is beautiful.
★ A Kirkus Best Book of 2021: A Best Informational Picture Book ★
★ A Marginalian (formerly Brain Pickings) Best Children’s Book of 2021 ★
★ A Spirituality & Practice Best Spiritual Book of 2021 ★
★ “A poetic introduction to evolution, mutation, and the necessary reproduction to achieve both along the way. Author Popova takes readers on a journey through time, beginning with the emergence of single-celled organisms and ending on another one-in-a-million chance: a potential future snail with a particular, rare recessive gene. Gentle, lyrical text briefly outlines the evolution of modern life on Earth before introducing Jeremy, a common garden snail with a rare left-spiraling shell, found by chance by a human scientist who had recently listened to a snail researcher on the radio... Zhu’s soft, opaque illustrations of life on Earth, prehistoric and modern, micro and macro, are sure to enchant readers of all ages. The oversized trim allows her to play up the snail’s tininess in long perspectives, and close-ups are luscious; both enhance the narration’s sense of playful awe. A story as charmingly mesmerizing as a silvery snail’s trail on a summer morning.” —STARRED REVIEW, Kirkus
“In a paean to the value of individual differences that is presented on a cosmic scale, Brain Pickings founder Popova (Figuring, for adults) relates the real-life story of Jeremy, a rare garden snail found in 2015 by a retired London scientist, whose shell spiraled to the left, signifying reversed internal anatomy—including a heart positioned on the right. Because of this, Jeremy, a hermaphrodite like all garden snails, required a similarly rare mate to procreate. Against a backdrop of biology, history, and genetics, Popova calls attention to differences of ability and the problem of the gender binary. In doing so, she elegantly underscores the desirability of genetic and other kinds of diversity, which is ‘always lovelier than sameness’ and makes communities ‘stronger and better able to adapt to change.’ Ping Zhu’s (The Strange Birds of Flannery O’Connor) art, however, turns a book about a humble snail into a riot of vibrant color, making for a celebration of the ‘strange and lovely little snail with a left-coiling shell and a right heart’ that is shot through with a strange loveliness of its very own.” —Publishers Weekly
“The Snail With the Right Heart, written by Maria Popova and illustrated by Ping Zhu, tells the extraordinary true story of Jeremy, the lefty snail. Snails with left-spiraling shells are a one-in-a-million rarity, and the search for a mate for Jeremy became a British media sensation. Popova’s lyrical retelling and Ping Zhu’s simple, charming artwork add so much to an already marvelous story, introducing readers to the genetic significance of Jeremy’s rare mutation and to the concept of deep time (and how life exists within it).” —The New York Times
“A book that dares to play with storytelling and science in a wholly different way... Popova has managed to do what some of the best nonfiction is capable of accomplishing. She has taken a true story and breathed life into it to make it human... And the art is just stunning... The art appears to be watercolors, and the colors just pop. While most garden variety snails are not usually considered the most colorful of critters, Ping finds broad sweeps of color in other places. From the metaphorical parade of evolution to the final image of a sun setting and the sky a red-orange-yellow-blue-purple-pink throb of tones, this is a treat to the eye.” —Elizabeth Bird, A Fuse #8 Production (A School Library Journal Blog)
“Popova skillfully employs metaphor to connect Jeremy's story to the underlying science of evolution, as in presenting the explanation of why snails, who can reproduce on their own, prefer to seek a mate: ‘because diversity is always lovelier than sameness, and because it makes communities stronger and better able to adapt to change.’ … Zhu's illustrations, filled with swirling expanses of color, brilliantly portray the concept of a recessive gene as a tiny but persistent snail silhouette inches across the pages and through geologic time.” —The Horn Book
“This lovely and informative picture book celebrates the rare life of Jeremy, a snail with a left-spiraling shell. [Popova] starts with an introduction to evolution that puts Jeremy’s unlikely mutation and even his random discovery by a British scientist into context. She gently and respectfully describes snails’ hermaphrodite nature and unusual reproductive process and follows the worldwide quest for a left-swirling mate. It’s a fascinating story and I loved that Popova managed to combine science and lyric sentences in a way that will invite questions and discussion... Zhu uses stunning watercolors for her illustrations. Every thick textured page is so supersaturated with hue that the pages still look damp... The snails themselves are well-suited to watercolor, with their dainty tentacles and shells built of overlapping swirls of pigment. One giant central trifold shows a colorful garden full of flowers; young readers can pour over it to find the snail. This is a philosophical and beautiful celebration of being different.” —Youth Services Book Review
“Inspired by a true story, this picture book is a touching mix of poetic description and scientific facts. Popova’s language embraces the reader, showing them the beauty and wonder in mutation, genetics and evolution... She writes with real intention both to reveal the amazing nature around us but also to describe the science, including Jeremy’s mirror image body, the way that snails mate, and the work of the scientists who cared enough to explore his mutation. Zhu’s illustrations are awash in colors, from the blues of the original waters of life to the rich green of English gardens. Done in watercolor swirls and drips, the illustrations are a mix of close ups from a snail’s view and the bustle of humans transporting Jeremy and the other snails. There is even a lovely foldout page that invites readers to even more fully enter the depths of the garden. Full of wonder and science.” —Waking Brain Cells
★ “A retired scientist who—right after hearing a snail researcher interviewed on the radio—serendipitously comes upon a most unusual garden snail: its shell spirals the opposite direction from ordinary snails, left instead of right… This marvelous book by Maria Popova of Brain Pickings fame tells the story of this wise scientist's decision to send the little snail in a cozy box to the researcher, in case ‘its strangeness held some beautiful secret waiting to be unlocked.’ ... Because Popova's mind grasps a cosmic scope, she begins this whole story not with the snail, but way back ‘long ago, before half the stars that speckle the sky were born.’ By taking into account the scope of time up until the snail's discovery, she can gently unlock for young readers (ages 7-12 years) the marvels of mutation, [then] explore the wonder of genes, ‘like tiny seeds your parents plant in the garden that becomes your body.’ Never for a moment does this scientific story become dry. It is laced throughout with poetic imagery and humor.… At every step of the way, illustrator Ping Zhu is the perfect partner for these wide-ranging reflections on uniqueness, gender, love, and the grandeur of the universe.” —Patricia Campbell Carlson, Spirituality & Practice
- A Marginalian Best Children's Book of 2021
- A Best Spiritual Book of 2021
- A Kirkus Best Informational Picture Book of 2021