The First Slodge and the power of opening lines

posted in: Jeanne Willis, Jenni Desmond | 6

Never judge a book by it’s cover, but what about its opening lines?

Some of my favourite first words include:-

The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do.

All children, except one, grow up.

‘Where’s Papa going with that axe?’ said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.

There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.

The Iron Man came to the top of the cliff. How far had he walked? Nobody knows. Where had he come from? Nobody knows. Taller than a house, the Iron Man stood at the top of the cliff, on the very brink, in the darkness.

(prizes if you can name all the books in the comments!)

And now there’s this to add to the mix:

Once upon a slime, there was a Slodge.

firstslodgecoverThis is how Jeanne Willis introduces her latest book, The First Slodge, joyously illustrated by Jenni Desmond. The first words are simply a delight to read, to roll around your tongue, to let slip and slide into a smile as you read this story about sharing and friendship.

Slodge delights in the sunset, the moon and the stars, believing they belong to her alone. It comes as a huge shock to discover that there’s a second Slodge with whom she must share her delights. Squabbling over something neither wishes to forgo, they tumble into terrible danger. Will they work together to save themselves or will pride and selfishness get in the way?

Funny, gentle, and full of life The First Slodge is a warmhearted parable about how things are better together when shared with generosity. The youngest of listeners will recognise the delighted squeals of “Mine, all mine!“, as well as the tussles over treasures. However, everyone ends up full of the feel good factor, quietly reassured that they see they do not have to face the dangers of the world alone.


Written like a spider’s web – delicate and strong – The First Slodge contains equally impressive illustrations, full of flowing movement and energy with a sumptuous palette of soothing and sophisticated greens and blues. Several spreads strongly echo Desmond’s Red Cat, Blue Cat (you can read my review here) in composition or concept (the slodges/cats fighting, the twist at the end), which I found slightly surprising but both books remain lovely reads I recommend seeking out.



Sharing The First Slodge as a family left us eager to make our own slime and Slodges. We set up a slime factory to test three different recipes:

Slime 1

  • 1 can condensed milk
  • 1 tablespoon corn flour
  • Green food colouring

  • Mix all the ingredients in a saucepan and stir over a low heat for about 10 minutes as the mixture thickens. The low heat is necessary in order that the condensed milk doesn’t burn to the bottom of the pan. Once suitably thick, leave to cool before creating your Slodges. This slime is actually perfectly edible, but as we were playing with other slimes too, I didn’t encourage taste testing.


    Slime 2

  • 1 tablespoon Psyllium Husks (a fibre supplement easily available in health food shops such as Holland and Barrett, or online)
  • 1 cup of water
  • Green food colouring

  • Mix all the ingredients in a saucepan and whisk over a low heat for about 5 minutes until the mixture thickens. Leave to cool and then start Slodging. We’ve never used this slime recipe before and it was the most exciting; its texture and appearance is quite unlike any other slime we’ve made, with a rubbery, almost bouncy feel, with great stretchability!


    Slime 3

  • 1 cup (or mug) flour
  • 1/2 cup (or mug) salt
  • 2 tbs Cream of Tartar
  • 1 tbs sunflower oil
  • 1 cup (or mug) boiling water

  • Mix all the ingredients in a saucepan and stir over low heat until the mixture is no longer sticky to touch. Leave to cool and knead into fairly solid slime. Some of you may recognise this as a playdoh recipe.


    Once we had our three slimes we delighted and disgusted ourselves with the sensory experience as we made our first Slodges.


    We rated our slimes in terms of appearance and texture, the yuckier the better.


    The winning slime was the one made from psyllium husks – definitely a sensory experience worth trying out!


    Whilst making slime and slodges we listened to:

  • The Sharing Song by Raffi
  • Share by Renee & Jeremy
  • Share a Story by They Might Be Giants (quality of the Youtube video isn’t great, but it gives you an idea)

  • Other activities which would go well with reading The First Slodge include:

  • Making my favourite and most peculiar slime, which has the properties of both solids and liquids depending on how you play with it. You can find out more in my post here.
  • Moulding Slodges out of plasticine, fimo or whatever is your favourite sort of modelling clay. Pinch up ears, add buttons for eyes and snippets of wool or pipecleaners for mouths and you’ll soon have Slodges playing everywhere,
  • Recreating the flowers in Desmond’s landscapes using pipecleaners (see the penultimate spread in the book). Take a blue pipecleaner for a stem and then bend an orange or pink one roughly over a few times before attaching to the stem; they should look a little like a 3-D scribble. You could create loads of them for a landscape for your slodges to play in.

  • What are your favourite books about sharing and working together? Where have you come across really revolting slime? What are your favourite opening lines in picture books?

    Disclosure: I received a free review copy of The First Slodge from the publisher.

    6 Responses

    1. cath jones

      A monster calls. Patrick Ness The most amazing book … so moving. I wept and adored it at the same time!
      JM Barrie The Adventures of Peter Pan Still have not read the whole book but Such a classic opening…
      E B White Charlottes Web. This start makes me think of the Shining!
      C S Lewis Yes, it has to be the Dawn Treader
      And Ted Hughes The Iron Man. I remember studying this opening at school, a I ng time ago

      And once upon a slime? Well that has to be a new classic

      I read so many of the books you mention. Thanks for another great post


    2. Sam

      What a great post, Zoe. For ages I’ve been wanting to write one about how great openers in children’s books can teach adult writers a thing or two – I think that this is a fab list. Slodge looks amazing and great activities too!
      Sam recently posted..Childtastic goes pop-up!

    3. Weeping Sore

      I only knew Peter Pan. I know a bunch of others that begin “Once upon a time…” and I know the best of times worst of times book. Oh, well.

    4. Katherine

      Will definitely reserve this one from the library, Bagl loves Jeanne Willis’ Stomp! at the moment. He is really suspicious of any slime and sludge I have made for him though. I thought the shaving foam/PVA glue/glitter one was fun.
      Katherine recently posted..Our month in books: March 2015

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