As a student, I used to spend a fair amount of my time lying around in my room, smoking, reading poetry and thinking vaguely meaningful but probably largely pretentious and self-absorbed thoughts. Thankfully, I gave up smoking years ago and these days I barely have the time or energy for thinking thoughts, pretentious or otherwise, let alone reading poetry. I miss the poetry, so I’m always delighted when my little boy wants to read The Snail and the Whale, written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler (the power duo behind The Gruffalo). It’s a beautiful story, told in rhyme, about a snail with “an itchy foot” who hitches a lift on a whale’s tail and sets off to see the world. Granted, it’s not The Rime of The Ancient Mariner, but it’s powerful and moving in its own way, with a lyrical rhythm that’s a joy to read aloud – “These are the waves that arched and crashed/ That foamed and frolicked and sprayed and splashed/ The tiny snail/ On the tail of the whale.” It’s about friendship, travel and experience, with a bit of environmental awareness thrown in – all important themes, whether you’re two or 32. I hope it will inspire my son to love and appreciate words as much as I do, and possibly one day to enjoy lying around reading poetry and thinking meaningful if slightly pretentious thoughts. Just without the cigarettes.