Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction, picture books

Picture book biography: The Snail by Emily Hughes

The Snail, by Emily Hughes, (Nov. 2022, Chronicle Books), $18.99, ISBN: 9781797204673

Ages 7-10

Themes of contrast and duality frame this picture book biography about Japanese-American artist Isamu Noguchi, whose life is told in shifting perspectives from past to present, beginning with his invitation to present his artwork in an exhibition. Born the child of a Japanese father and an American mother, raised in Japan, he never felt that he belonged to either country. He referred to himself as a snail, pulling into himself, creating a creative shell around himself where he could “create wonders”. Hughes explores the contrasts in Noguchi’s life with evocative, moving storytelling and beautiful graphite and digital art, making use of gentle color and shades of black, white, and gray to tell Noguchi’s story. Hughes makes wonderful use of warmth for Noguchi’s akari (paper lanterns) display, imbuing the lanterns with internal warmth that radiate from the page. An author’s note on Noguchi’s life provides deeper context into the misunderstood artist; a bibliography provides more resources. A very good choice for picture book biographies.

The Snail has a starred review from Booklist.


I'm a mom, a children's librarian, bibliophile, and obsessive knitter. I'm a pop culture junkie and a proud nerd, and favorite reads usually fall into Sci-Fi/Fantasy. I review comics and graphic novels at WhatchaReading ( I'm also the co-founder of On Wednesdays We Wear Capes (, where I discuss pop culture and geek fandom from a female point of view.

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