From Wordsworth’s singing skylark to Yeats’s bee-loud glade, the melodies of the natural world have long been praised for their power to evoke joy and tranquility. But when you’re a snail who’s hankering for a kip, all those jubilant outpourings from your fellow fauna can be rather a nuisance. The calm of Sid’s favourite tree is disrupted by a flock of chirping sparrows. And when he slithers off to the allotment, a trio of singing foxes begins to bellow. Over in the playground, those lively squirrels are crashing about with gusto. And a group of chattering badgers is causing a commotion in the wood. You might think that when faced with such hullabaloo, a snail would have the ideal, portable retreat. But not according to author Ruth Green. “Sid’s shell has to be fairly light so he can carry it around, so it’s pretty thin,” she says. “It doesn’t keep out all the racket made by his neighbours.”
A printmaker by trade, this is Ruth’s debut picture book. Her style has a fun, retro feel, with details inspired by floral designs from Sixties’ coffee pots – Ruth is a collector – and vintage fabrics. Each scene has a different-coloured backdrop, making for a journey that’s a riot in colour, as well as sound. And every page is busy with lively critters to spot. Sid himself has shades of Brian from The Magic Roundabout, one of the author’s favourite childhood shows. As a keen allotment grower and gardener, this raucous, natural world is one Ruth has a strong affinity with; although in reality, she has a love-hate relationship with snails. “They’re always munching my plants,” she says.
Like Mrs Large in picture-book classic Five Minutes’ Peace by Jill Murphy (Walker, £5.99), here, Sid’s quest for solitude makes him a figure any harried parent will sympathise with. However, with everyone else having such a merry old time, you do get the sneaking suspicion that Sid is being a bit of a grouch (a gentle nudge for parents, and for joining-in refuseniks, perhaps?). After racking his brains, the solution becomes clear. “He decides if he can’t beat them, then he might as well join them,” says Ruth. And it looks like fun...
Noisy Neighbours by Ruth Green (Tate, £6.99), 2+