Review of the Day: My Buddy, Slug
We’ve all had that friend who’s very dear to us but once in a while gets on our nerves. It could be the co-worker who always talks about her gout or the college roommate that liked to jabber non-stop through movies. It’s a problem that hits people of every age, race, gender, or persuasion. For adults, our ability to deal with such friends is a talent we’ve cultivated over the years. Kids, on the other hand, need to learn how to deal. For them, Jarrett Krosoczka has given them, “My Buddy, Slug”. Well told without ever descending into preachiness, Krosoczka tells one boy’s tale of the friend who just never knew when to quit.
At first there were three friends: Kevin, Alex, and Slug. Then Kevin moved away and it was just Slug and Alex left. And that’s fine, cause they are friends, after all. Such good friends, in fact, that they do everything together. School. Shopping. Homework. But when Alex wants some alone time, Slug just doesn’t know how to take a hint. When he ends up at Alex’s house eating dinner with the fam and staying the night, that’s the last straw. Alex vents his frustration about his friend loudly enough that poor Slug gets his feelings hurt. Now Alex has to do the right thing if he ever wants to get back the only best friend he’s got.
A co-worker of mine read through this book and commented that he liked the matter-of-fact way in which this book dealt with the fact that Slug was a slug. It’s funny, but this never even occurred to me. Like many of the kids who will come to read it, I accepted from page 1 that Alex’s best friend was an approximately 5’6” neon orange invertebrate. I mean, the book certainly could have been written with Slug a kid, and many an author would have gone that route. It takes a particularly nice and twisted brain, however, to think up something, or someONE, as outrageous and friendly as Slug. A tip of the hat to the way Mr. Krosoczka’s brain works. I do wonder what number of parents will pick up this book expecting it to be about a boy who creates a gigantic slug and the troubles that follow. For them, Krosoczka’s tale can only come as a wonderful surprise.
And I liked that the book addressed why it was that Slug follows Kevin around as closely as he does. When the two friends make up, Slug launches into his longest loudest speechifying yet. In it, he mentions that he probably wasn’t giving Alex any alone time because he was afraid he’d lose him just as he already lost Kevin. A picture book that can justify the twists in its narrative. Whatta concept! Now as a librarian I did have to test the readaloud potential of the book. Some books are one-on-one books and some will hold a large crowd of first graders enrapt. “My Buddy, Slug”, seems to fall right down the center. On the one hand the bright pictures and clear cut situations make it ideal readaloud material. On the other hand, Krosoczka’s worked in so many witty little asides and snips of dialogue (particularly in that final Slug speech) that it may not work with a group. I think it hangs entirely on your presentation technique. If you think you’ll be able to get the kids interested when you’re reading Slug’s opinion on the differences between lemons and limes, all power to you.
Mr. Krosoczka does have one cross to bear that may follow him for the first few years of his publishing. His style of drawing, oddly enough, looks mighty similar to that of Joe Cepeda. I mean, there are obvious differences. Mr. Cepeda has many charms, but I’ve yet to see him give voice to safety cone-colored escargot (or slugs for that matter). There’s just something about the thick acrylics Krosoczka’s working with here that bring to mind Cepeda’s, “Captain Bob Sets Sail” or “What a Truly Cool World”. The book actually does some lovely things with light (as when Alex and Slug are watching a movie at night) and when it comes to sluggy shadows, I can’t think of anyone I’d rather have illustrate them. Plus there’s a great Slug-related medley of images as he keeps Alex up at night with his incessant chatter. Sharp eyed kids will also notice that on Alex’s refrigerator are the photos of himself and his friends that appear on the first two pages of the book. And is it just me or does Alex’s sister have a crush on Slug?
I'm sure that if “My Buddy, Slug” enjoys any of the success of Mr. Krosoczka’s previous efforts, expect him to be getting his own show on Noggin soon. For further slug related fare (if that’s what you’re into) you might want to change gears and check out the fearful “Slugs” by David Greenburg or “Some Smug Slug” by Pamela Duncan Edwards, which is the best alliterative slug-related tale on the market today. For a bit of sweetness with your sluggary, however, this book stands alone. Fun and with an interior logic that kids are bound to get a kick out of.