The First Slodge Author: Jeanne Willis Illustrator: Jenni Desmond
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Format: Picture Books

Age Range: 3-7 years

Publication Date: March 2015

BISAC: JUV039060

Pages: 32

Book Format Detail: Jacketed Hardcover

Retail Price: $16.99

ISBN-13: 978-1-58925-169-4

ISBN-10: 1-58925-169-5

Dimensions: 10" x 11-1/4"

Once upon a time, the first Slodge in the universe sees her first sunrise and sunset. "My day, my night," she says. She smells her first flower and picks her first fruit. "Mine, all mine!" But when she meets another Slodge, she might have to learn to share after all....

The prolific Willis' offbeat fable of cooperation and sharing features a solitary green, bipedal, two-armed, sluglike being called a Slodge. The Slodge's sleepy, squelchy progress out of a slime pit is followed by yawns, scratches and a proprietary survey of the unpopulated landscape. The self-satisfied Slodge gambols about, laying claim to everything from the sunrise to the fruit trees. "Mine, all mine!" All is good until another Slodge, a male, appears on the second day (of creation?). Escalating from a possessive-pronoun throwdown, the first fight erupts. Armageddon appears imminent until a jaundiced, toothy, seagoing Snawk has the temerity to target the first Slodge as she plunges into its domain. The boy Slodge saves the day with a battle cry of "That's my Slodge!" Desmond's primarily blue- and green-hued digital mixed-media art (collage, paint and colored pencil) populates the world with myriad fantastical creatures once peace is declared. "The world didn't belong to anyone. / It belonged to everyone. / It was there to share." The Slodges unite in an accelerated and, one assumes, successful friendship, because one page-turn later, there are suddenly 72 romping children and more on the way. From the primordial ooze to the red fruit, the illustrations serve to reinforce the Adam and Eve metaphor, and the whole thing may leave readers rooting for the serpentlike Snawk. (Picture book. 4-7). 32pg. KIRKUS MEDIA LLC, c2014.

Part quirky creation myth, part friendship fable, Willis's (Chicken Clicking) story features two creatures who think they are singular in the world--until they find each other. After the "first Slodge in the universe" emerges (Desmond envisions the creature as a sort of primordial sea-green cousin to a gummy bear), she embraces all that she sees as her own: "She saw the first star. And the first moon. 'My star, my moon,' she said." But when she discovers that a second Slodge has taken a bite of her fruit, a turf war begins ("And they fought the first fight"), and the two Slodges have a scare that pushes them to realize they are even better as a team. Desmond's (Eric, the Boy Who Lost His Gravity) lumpy Slodges and other whimsical creations (a blue palmlike tree, a yellow serpentine Snawk) conjure a strange bygone world in its infancy--an inviting setting for readers to explore themes of friendship, sharing, and stewardship. "The world didn't belong to anyone," writes Willis. "It was there to share." (Mar.). 32p. Ages 3-7. PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, c2015.

"Once upon a slime, there was a Slodge. The first Slodge in the universe." She experiences a myriad of firsts, from seeing the first sunrise to smelling the first flower, until she meets another Slodge. The two fight "the first fight" over a piece of fruit, before getting into trouble with the First Snawk, a monstrous sea creature that wants to eat the First Slodge. After the Second Slodge rescues her from the Snawk, the two Slodges become friends. The story, simultaneously sweet and odd, may leave some readers feeling ambivalent, although the message is sound: "The world didn't belong to anyone. It belonged to everyone. It was there to share." A Slodge, while never fully described or explained in the text, appears in Desmond's airy illustrations as a green, slimy, globular creature, and, by the end of the story, a spread reveals a diverse variety of equally unique creatures that populate the strange, quirky world Willis and Desmond have created. The book concludes on a peculiar note, in which the two Slodges have a host of babies and are no longer the only two Slodges in the universe. VERDICT While some readers may be left scratching their heads, others will appreciate the book for its offbeat creativity and as an allegorical approach to teaching children about the world. Laura J. Giunta, Garden City Public Library, NY. 32p. K-Gr. 3. SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL, c2015.