Tuesday, 22 June 2010
Review: Slime Squad by Steve Cole
Mad scientist Godfrey Gunk had a dream - a dream of creating a whole safari park of monsters on an old rubbish dump. It didn't work. Little did Godfrey know that after he left the rubbish dump, his dream came true ...Meet the inhabitants of Trashland, a whole world full of different types of slimy monsters who all live peacefully alongside each other - at least until now ...Plog keeps himself to himself on account of his very slimy, very stinky feet, so he is surprised one day when Trashland's superhero Slime Squad with their different slimy special powers turn up at his sewer door and bundle him back to their secret operations base. Things are changing in the rubbish dump, mean and nasty slime monsters have grown and are starting to shatter the peace with their evil crimes. The Slime Squad need some help, and they think Plog is the monster to offer it! It's time to fight crime with slime!
Random House describe Steve Cole as a one-man publishing team, and I would suggest that this is a pretty accurate description. This man (or is he a machine?) is possibly this country's most prolific children's author of the moment - this year alone he is scheduled to have more than 25 titles published by Random House. On hearing something like this I would imagine that the cynical grumpy-types out there might start to question the quality of these books (usually without having read a single word), but they would be so very long. This is the man who has so far brought us the Astrosaur series, the Cows In Action series, and now the Slime Squad series - every one of them a fun and hilarious read for the 7+ age group. I know boys younger than this who have these read to them at bedtime, usually in fits of giggles. Steve Cole really knows what makes kids laugh!
Whereas the Astrosaur series utilised the classic boy favourites of science fiction and dinosaurs to appeal to its readers, the Slime Squad series relies on a subject that also has great boy-appeal, namely all things dirty and slimy. The story is set in Trashland, an old rubbish dump that was established by a mad scientist who was so concerned about the increasing amounts of pollution building up in the world that he became determined to create "marvellous mutant mini-monsters out of chemical goo - monsters who would clean up the planet by eating, drinking and generally devouring all types of rubbish". Unfortunately all of his experiments failed, and once his funds and dwindled he gave up, smashing his computer and spreading some of it components across the site in his frustration.
Little did Godfrey Gunk realise that years before he bought his landfill site a consignment of radioactive waste had been buried there, and once he departed it wasn't long before the radiation from this waste began to react with the remains of his experiments and life began to form - hundreds of mini-monsters. This life evolved and soon Trashland became a thriving metropolis, including banks, shops, museums and so on, all situated in areas such as the Tin Can Mountains, Broken Furniture Valley and Spare Part Canyon.
At the same time as all this was happening the remains of the crazy prof's computer was also at work - it had been programmed to repair itself and its artificial intelligence evolved over time to become PIE, short for Perfect Intelligence Electronics. PIE is now the Trashland equivalent of Charlie, with the Slime Squad taking the place of Charlie's Angels - a team of super-powered mini-monsters who, thanks to PIE's all-seeing components, always seem to be in the right place at the right time to lend a hand to the needy inhabitants of Trashland. Unfortunately for the Slime Squad, and Trashland in general, some of the really nasty waste has now begun to leak out and evolve itself - in this case into particularly nasty monsters. These monsters are turning to crime, under the guidance of the mysterious and evil Lord Klukk, and so now the Slime Squad must become crime-fighters, a task they seem woefully unprepared for.
Young boys will love these stories. Steve Cole has a wonderful imagination and loves to play around with words - the inhabitants of Trashland watch Smellyvision, their currency is printed on used toilet paper (the smellier the note, the more valuable it is), and Plog, a reclusive mini-monster who unknowingly has a huge part to play in the Slime Squad, has meals such as rat hairs and flies' legs in seagull-poo sauce. Show me a 5-8 year old boy who doesn't find this sort of thing hilarious! The stories stick to his tried and tested (and so far very successful) formula - create funny, memorable characters...... have them working together as a team...... put them into dangerous situations that require them to use their various abilities...... the team overcomes the enemy/danger despite sometimes enormous odds...... and all this is done with a plot that is saturated with sparkling young boy humour throughout.
These really are the sort of books that will get boys of this age interested in books, and as many parents and professionals know, if you hook them at this age quite often they are hooked for life and I have seen this for myself with both of my godsons and their brothers. There aren't a huge number of good books being produced for this age group (aside from Steve Cole's output there are the Horrid Henry books, the Captain Underpants series and Tommy Donbavand's Scream Street series are the only ones that spring immediately to mind), so I can only hope that Mr Cole doesn't burn out from his massive efforts. I certainly feel that he has a big part to play in creating the older boy readers of the future.
So far two Slime Squad books have been published and are available to buy right now - The Slime Squad vs The Fearsome Fists and The Slime Squad vs The Toxic Teeth, and there are two more scheduled for August 2010.