Blessed with gorgeous paintings to be admired by all ages, but words more suited to middle-grade readers, The Snail with the Right Heart by Maria Popova is a curious tale. Based on a real event, it tells the story of a very uncommon garden snail named Jeremy, whose shell spirals left instead of the usual right. The unassuming mollusc is set to garner worldwide attention in an ambitious exploration of genetics, the beauty of existence and the startling realities of snail sex.
Discovered minding his own business in a compost heap, Jeremy’s shell spirals in ‘…the same direction the Earth crawls around the Sun,’ signifying a rare condition wherein his vital body parts are the mirror image of almost every other snail he may meet. You may not think that’s such a big deal, but the intricacies of snail reproduction are such that Jeremy’s body will only fit with fellow left spirallers. At this point, smart young readers may shout that snails are hermaphrodites and can make babies alone. Yes, but where’s the fun in that?
‘Because diversity is always lovelier than sameness…snails prefer to make babies in pairs.’
Jeremy’s chances of finding a mate and enjoying parenthood stand at one in a million. It’s time to (literally) put out a worldwide plea for a soulmate. Will the snail trail to love run smoothly?
Adult readers of Popova’s Brainpickings blog will know of her intellectually rigorous writing on culture, literature and science. Here, she beautifully distills the history of evolution and genetics into evocative child-friendly language, explaining that our genes are tiny seeds that our parents plant ‘in the garden that becomes your body,’ recessive genes, like the one that caused Jeremy’s condition merely shy seeds, biding their time.
Another unusual and captivating read from Enchanted Lion Books and the perfect gift for inquiring minds.
The Snail with the Right Heart by Maria Popova is published by Enchanted Lion Books, 56 pages.