Sarah Lucas, with illustrations by Amy Lucas & Henrietta Hellard
Professional Marketing Ltd., ISBN 978-0-9557251-1-1 and ISBN 978-0-9557251-2-8
Price c.£5.99 each
Mollusc World 21; Page 16
The second volume in the adventures of Old McSlithers the giant snail and his human friends Amy and Charlie carries on where the first book, Snail Trail, left off (see Mollusc World 16.26). In this story, an American film producer wants to make a film about their adventures so far, but the girls have their doubts. Subsequently they fall out so Amy teams up with a boy from her class, Jack, instead. They try to hide Old McSlithers but he is ill with an upset stomach (hence the title of the book) and in any case it’s not easy to hide a snail the size of a four story building. There are some other mysteries to keep the junior detectives going as well: the new people in the village, Mr and Mrs Cracked-Up, who are acting very oddly, and trails of glitter that have appeared from nowhere.
Unfortunately Snails Don’t Burp! lacks the originality of its prequel, Snail Trail. Despite, or perhaps because of, assistance from various members of the Conchological Society, the book feels a little too contrived. Sarah Lucas has worked hard to get some messages across and to get her facts right, and it shows. Snail Trail had a much more spontaneous feel to it than this book. The emphasis on healthy eating and recycling are a little too clumsy and some of the ideas about how a snail might react adversely to being poisoned are perhaps only relevant to an expert. There are too many new characters and it feels a little too politically correct. Somehow the author seems to have lost track of the fact that this is a kids’ book.
This is not to say that the book is unreadable. There are still some good parts to it, and Amy Lucas’s illustrations are delightful, but it didn’t quite live up to my expectations. Snail Park, on the other hand, the third volume in the series, is a much better book. Although the plot still emphasises important issues such as conservation and road traffic, it flows better and these subjects are introduced in a much more believable and naturalistic way. There are a lot of new characters in this book too, but unlike in Snails Don’t Burp! they aren’t all indistinguishable school children. The main child character to be introduced is the very peculiar Laura Crust, who is weird enough to be a creation of H P Lovecraft, and there is a subplot involving Mrs Snout, the Headmistress of Bourne School who is literally falling apart. I found this genuinely funny and when the villain gets their come-uppance at the end of the story I laughed aloud. There are also some strokes of originality, such as Amy’s good fairy Tamanather and as usual a mystery to be solved by the junior detectives Amy and Charlie (who of course are now friends again).
Sarah Lucas has evidently not run out of steam yet as the next book, Snail Movie, is due out this year. Watch this space!
Book launch of “Snail Park” (photos by June Chatfield)