The tiny world of Slugland, complete with butterfly waitresses, caterpillar chefs and dragonfly train engineers, comes alive in author and illustrator O’Beirne’s reissue of her 2006 chapter book.
Driver Dragon-fly and Glow-worm Guard are the engineer and conductor, respectively, of the Slugland steam train, which operates in a tiny insect country just outside London. Every year, Slugland’s families go on vacation and travel to the end of the train line to Woodlands Hotel. There, Ladybird of Fernlee Hall, who’s treated as nobility among the slug-and-bug cast, judges a contest, in which families describe how helpful and kind their children have been over the course of the year in hopes of winning an award. O’Beirne diligently describes the train travel, complete with made-up board games and banana-slice snacks, but only singles out one family during the trip—the slugs from the Rocky Mountain train stop—so readers won’t be shocked when one of their children wins the award. In fact, there are very few surprises here; the pace is sedate, and the characters face little conflict or challenge. But the story is less about the plot or characters than it is about exploring and describing the world from a slug’s-eye view, and O’Beirne certainly offers readers an appealing fictional world. The text is gently repetitive, which makes it suitable for beginning readers. (In at least one instance, however, the repetition appears unintentional, as two paragraphs are repeated, verbatim, back to back.) The author’s sketchy illustrations add little to the narrative save to break up the text; they’re simply not detailed enough to spark readers’ imaginations. Still, Driver Dragon-fly, Glow-worm Guard, Red Admiral Butterfly (the bag handler at the hotel), and Caterpillar Chef, with his multitude of hands to help him serve dinner, will encourage readers to imagine the roles of other insects in Slugland.
A calm tale of vacationing insects set in a cleverly imagined world that may entertain young readers.