The Snail and the Whale

Written by Julia Donaldson
Illustrated by Axel Scheffler

For ages 3 to 8

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This book is best for:
  • adjectives
  • describing
  • narrative - sequencing
  • narrative - setting description
  • rhyming
  • speech sounds - /l/ word-final position
  • speech sounds - /s/ blends


A tiny snail longs to see the world and hitches a ride on a whale’s tail. Together the snail and the whale go on an incredible adventure, seeing all sorts of amazing sights. But when the whale becomes beached in the bay, it’s up to snail to save the day.

The Snail and the Whale is a heartwarming story that illustrates that anyone, no matter how small they are, can achieve great things if they put their mind to it. Julia Donaldson’s playful use of rhyme, repetition and onomatopoeia make this a fun book to read aloud. The rich and sophisticated language throughout means there are plenty of language goals to target. The use of adjectives and descriptive language is brilliant. I love phrases such as “shimmering ice” and “stripy fish with feathery fins”. The Snail and the Whale is packed full of words containing /s/ blends and words ending in /l/, so also a fantastic choice for little ones working on these sounds.

* Special thanks to Leah Lomiansky for this book recommendation

For further speech and language targets in The Snail and the Whale, see the list below.

Book Details

Narrative Structure: Complete Episode

Story Plot: Journey Tale

  • animals - insects; ocean
  • friendship
  • place - beach; ocean
  • travel

Speech and Language Targets

Speech Sounds:
  • /l/ - whale, snail, tale/tail, sail, trail, small, crawl, school, pool, cool
  • /s/ - sea, song, soot, save, sail, safely
  • /s/ blends - snail, small, slither, smooth, stuck, stay, stars, swim/swam, sky, speedboats, spray, splash, stripy, squirting
  • voiced /th/ - this, the, these, that, they, slither, feathery, smooth
  • unvoiced /th/ - thunderstorm, toothy, with, beneath
  • /w/ - whale, world, waves, away
  • adjectives (e.g. tiny snail, big grey-blue humpback whale, smooth black rock, shimmering ice, golden sands, stripy fish with feathery fins)
  • conjunctions (and)
  • copula (is, are)
  • regular past tense
  • irregular past tense verbs (sang, swam, lost)
  • action verbs (slither, sail, carry, swim, run, spray, squirt, crawl)
  • matching
  • labelling
  • describing
  • predicting
  • making inferences
  • figurative language - simile (as black as soot)
  • figurative language - onomatopoeia
  • descriptive concepts (big, small, tiny)
  • friendship
  • character description
  • time
  • setting
  • sequencing
  • initiating event
  • problem
  • plans
  • resolution
  • moral
  • dialogue
  • direct character speech
Rhyme & Sound Awareness:
  • rhyme
Book Info

Published by Penguin Putnam Inc in 2006 (ISBN: 9780142405802)

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