Poetry Box review: Nan Blanchard’s Hazel and the Snails


She looked out the window at the passing sky. Somewhere up there was heaven. You went there when you died. When you ‘carked’ it as Henry liked to say.

‘Carked is a perfectly acceptable expression,’ Gran said to Henry. ‘Just don’t say passed away. Passed away is a ridiculous euphemism.’

‘Ridiculous euphemism,’ Hazel had repeated later in her bedroom. Something to do with sneezing.


Editors Kate De Goldi and Susan Paris produced the gorgeous ANNUAL 1 and ANNUAL 2 – two feasts of quality writing and illustrations  – that I celebrated on Poetry Box.

Kate and Susan have now taken their ANNUAL Ink children’s imprint to Massey University Press – their aim is ‘to seek and work closely with new writers and artists’ in a variety of forms but always aiming for  high quality. That is an admirable aim.

The first book was launched this week:

Hazel and the Snails by Nan Blanchard with lively illustrations by Giselle Clarkson.


This is Nan Blanchard‘s first book – in her author bio she says she was ‘brought up by books’. She lives in Wellington with her partner and two cats and has two adult children. Her favourite activity is reading but she likes going to museums, swimming and walking by the sea.





Hazel and the Snails, Nan Blanchard, ANNUAL Ink (Massey University Press imprint)



Nan’s book is snail paced and that is a very good thing because when you read at the pace of a snail you get to absorb so much more. I love reading slow and even slower and gliding through the gleam of a story. Then again there are speedy bits where I zoom faster to find out what happens  – such as when Hazel’s beads go flying.

This book is also polished. I was imagining a troop of squirrels polishing the words and the sentences until they shone because the writing is so beautifully crafted. It sings in my ears. It is plain and it is fresh and it is sometimes surprising (the similes are excellent!).


The story: Hazel is a young girl who needs to care for snails because her world is toppling over. I don’t want to ruin the snail’s-pace unfolding of the story by telling you what happens but I will say her dad is very very sick, her friend insists on speaking French words and her older brother is a bit of a pain. So looking after ten snails is just the trick to help a bad feeling in your stomach when bad things happen.


Hazel nodded. She followed Sue to the car, keeping the snail box away from her togs to stop it getting wet.

‘Au revoir,’ Meg called.

Hiss,’ replied Hazel under her breath.


I love the way words are played with by Hazel and her family (a bit like what poets do).

I love the way Hazel is a complicated character who feels joy and puzzlement and loss and anger and sadness and delight. I love the food in the story and the two Grans who come to stay and the bit where Hazel shares news with her class.

Hazel and the Snails is a gorgeous book, full of life and humour and sad bits and I feel all the better for having read it – at my  delicious snail’s pace so I can savour all the pieces that gleam. And Giselle’s illustrations are pitch perfect. Highly recommended. Ah!!



Massey University Press author page


Giselle Clarkson is a freelance illustrator and comic creator from Wellington. Her work has appeared in a bunch of School Journals as well as Gecko Press’ ANNUAL. Her secret talent is rescuing moths from the shower without accidentally drowning them. She illustrated the 2018 picture book Secret World of Butterflies by Courtney Sina Meredith (Allen & Unwin NZ).

 Visit her website

You can read the latest edition of the fabulous Giselle Clarkson comic at The Sapling.















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