If you were reading Playing by the book earlier in the week, you might be concerned where this post is going. Let me assure you, M’s game of burying dead animals has not reached such heights she is now looking to create her own supply of animals in need of funerals. No, nothing of this sort. But if you are a Buddhist, then I do apologise before I go any further.
I love to garden. We grow increasingly more of our own fruit and vegetables and it’s a delight the kids revel in too. There are few things they enjoy more than digging in our borders, planting seeds, even weeding! So from an early age M and J have both know what I consider the best thing to do when anyone comes across a slug in the garden. Just like me, they’ll put it on a hard surface and give it a good stamp. I’m afraid that in my book the only good slug is a dead slug.
Thus imagine my despair when the kids discovered Norman the Slug with a Silly Shell by Sue Hendra and suddenly started telling me how cute slugs were, how wonderful, how lovely, how funny. Uh Oh, I thought. What is this book that may well have brought an end to their slug stamping days?
Sue Hendra’s book makes out that slugs are funny, creative, imaginative creatures. Not only that, they have aspirations: Norman is a slug who wants more from life – he wants to be a snail.
And to be a snail he needs a shell. Norman looks everywhere for a shell just right for him but nothing quite works. The ball he straps to his back is too bouncy, the apple he tries on already has a resident. Then he spies a pink doughnut covered in sprinkles. He straps it on his back and it’s perfect. Norman looks quite the part and the snails in his garden are full of admiration.
Suddenly a bird dives out of the sky intent on – no not eating the snails – but gobbling up Norman’s good looking shell. As Norman is whisked higher and higher into the air he realises he has to do whatever it takes to be released. Within seconds he is producing industrial quantities of slug slime (my girls can barely look at this page, it repulses them so!) and as Norman falls back to earth his dreams take a new turn – no more a longing for a shell, but rather for wings to be able to fly.
Norman somehow survives his fall from the sky and all ends well with the last spread of the book – Norman has once again been inventive and his dreams have come true. He’s flying with the most wonderful pair of wings you can imagine (though if you can guess what they are made of before you read the book I salute you) – Icarus, it’s time to move over, Norman is the new kid on the block with the imagination, optimism (and soupçon of luck) needed to make dreams come true.
I’m sure my girls first picked up Norman the Slug with a Silly Shell because it looks so appealing – intense, saturated colours with just a dash of glittery printing, the front cover is indeed the bookish equivalent of a sweet shop window. The bold, graphic design style images make it easy to imagine these illustrations being adapted for a TV animation.
The story is a wonderful mix of optimism and humour, pulled back from being too cloying (just like a sickly sweet) with the perfect dash of yuck factor. This book is full of quirky, lighthearted fun, a sweet treat to read and a bit of colourful fun whilst waiting for the winter gloom to lift.
This book was begging us to create our own Normans, and here’s what we did.
We bought some ring doughnuts and covered them in pink icing and sprinkles.
Once dry, we completed our slugs-determined-to-be-snails with cocktail sticks and sweets (a couple of hidden cocktail sticks were used to attach the “shell” to the “body” of each slug).
And then the best bit – we got to eat them! (Although the thought of eating a slug makes my stomach churn…)
A supremely simple (and delicious) activity!
Norman the Slug with a Silly Shell: ** (2 out of 3 stars)
Whilst making our own Norman we listened to:
Who knew gastropods could inspire such great kids’ music?
For something a little more surreal you could listen to Donut Brain Aliens by Dirty Sock Funtime Band!
Other activities which could be enjoyed alongside reading Norman the Slug with a Silly Shell include:
As to the future of fate of slugs in our garden? Will the kids now be building slug sanctuaries and feeding them my prize plants? Only time will tell. We’re still very much in the depths of winter here, so thoughts of hours spent in the garden planting seeds and seedlings are still the stuff of my dreams, but come March, who knows? Will I be ruing the day I let Norman the Slug with a Silly Shell into our home?
On a far less worrying note, I’ll be returning next week with another British book before continuing with our literary exploration around Europe. Hope to see you there!