The Snail

the snail emily hughes

The Snail by Emily Hughes is a marvel to behold. Every detail—from the unique interior design to the gentle but powerful illustrations—is done with such careful intention, and the end result is stunning. The story follows one of the great artists, Isamu Noguchi, as he grapples with his mixed-race heritage, rejections from the art world, tensions during Japanese incarceration, and the way he created his art to hold himself in an unforgiving world. I was thrilled to find this story at the Noguchi Museum gift shop, face out on a shelf and surrounded by the artist’s Akari light sculptures—seeing his very lamps shining on this beautiful book celebrating his life.---from Mabel Hsu, executive editor, Katherine Tegen Books, HarperCollins Children’s Books

88 pages 978-1797204673 Ages 7-10

Keywords: biography, art, artist, Fine Arts Curriculum, biracial, prejudice and racism, Asian culture, resilience, 7 year old, 8 year old, 9 year old, 10 year old


Award-winning illustrator Emily Hughes offers a luminous picture book about the life of renowned Japanese American artist Isamu Noguchi.

Isamu Noguchi is one of the most important sculptors of all time. His Akari lamps changed the way modern buildings light their space. But before he was important, he was a kid. This is his story.

Noguchi was a Japanese American artist who gave the world light. The world, however, was not always so giving in return. Growing up mixed-race, born in the United States but raised in Japan, Noguchi found himself perceived as an outsider who did not belong in either country. Unable to identify fully as either Japanese or American, he conceived of himself as a snail, capable of retreating into his creative shell when the world did not embrace him. Through his art, the Snail could shape, hold, and create light—to conquer the darkness without.

Poetic and searing, heart-wrenching and exquisite, Emily Hughes's paean to creativity explores emotions ravaged by a history of Japanese incarceration, the effects of personal isolation, and the power of art to heal those wounds.

RENOWNED ARTIST: Isamu Noguchi's art is everywhere. You have likely seen it without knowing he was the artist—or even that it was art!

IMPORTANT TOPIC: This book uses art and history to discuss mixed racial identity, making a difficult topic more accessible to young readers.

STUNNING VISUALS: Hughes's illustrations are rich and evocative of the grace, power, and ephemerality of nature. Light and dark, complex yet simple, her art and storytelling echo the dual identity of Noguchi himself.

PERFECT GIFT FOR ART LOVERS: The subject and the beautiful visuals make this book the ideal gift for art students, art enthusiasts, and museum-goers of all ages.---from the publisher

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