I wanted a copy of Sally and Dave, A Slug Story, written and illustrated by Felice Arena, as soon as I saw the title and the cover. Who could resist Dave, a short, plump slug in a Hawaiian shirt, with sunglasses over his eyes on stalks above his head? Not me. Sally, I must admit, took a bit more getting used to.
Sally and Dave are two slugs. Here are their descriptions:
"Meet Sally. She's sensational at sports. She's sleek, slim, and simply stunning." (Accompanied by a picture of Sally holding a tennis racket and ball, standing on a soccer ball, and with superiority literally radiating from her persona in the form of lines.)
Meet Sally's neighbor, Dave. He's just a common fat slug." (With a picture of Dave lying on his side, waving hello, with a big smile on his face.) "Dave loves sleeping sideways in his own slime, and spending time sucking up salsa sauce he's spilled on his satin shirt." (The picture of Dave sucking up the salsa from his shirt-front, managing somehow to look happy-go-lucky, even as a waiter eyes him disdainfully, is priceless.)
In the story that follows, the contrast between Sally's active successful life and Dave's indolent happy life is shown on every page. Sally undertakes "synchronized swimming", while Dave undertakes "synchronized sipping". Sadly, the superior Sally is downright mean and condescending to the lazy Dave. Until, as the astute reader might expect, Sally ends up in danger, and Dave is able to draw on his own strengths to save the day, and prove that he too is "special". While this is a fairly common theme in picture books, the quirkiness of the two slugs and the s-repetitive alliteration throughout the book make Sally and Dave: A Slug Story original and fun.
I think that kids will find the alliteration particular entertaining. Arena misses no opportunity to throw in some extra S's. Dave sees Sally skate by one day while he's "slicing a salami sandwich". When he's in the shower, he listens to "Superfreak". He doesn't walk, he slithers, sometimes sliding in his own slime. And so on. It made me smile, and I can imagine three-year-olds laughing in delight.
Arena's illustrations also add considerably to the reader's appreciation of Sally and Dave. Rendered in (apparently) watercolor and pen and ink, the pictures have a faintly cartoon-like feel. Arena is talented at conveying the emotions of the slugs, despite their relatively limited facial features, doing a lot with the eyes and mouths. She also includes humorous details, like Sally's ski mask, floating above her head across those eyes on stalks, and Dave's bottle of "Slug Screen", which is appropriately short and fat.
In short, this is a highly entertaining title that is sure to please preschoolers. I think that the fact that the main characters are slugs, with the hero a boy slug, will make this book especially pleasing to young boys, though I'm sure girls will like it, too. In fact, I'm keeping my copy, because I think that when I'm in a bad mood, looking at Dave's happy face will cheer me up. Highly recommended.
Publisher: Kane/Miller Book Publishers
Publication Date: March 1, 2008 (but it's available now on Amazon)
Source of Book: A review copy from the publisher
© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.