Thursday, September 30, 2010

Spiders by Dan Greenberg, a book review

Overall, Spiders was a fairly average children's book with one minor and one significant drawback.

Greenberg gave a overview of what spiders are and how they behave, and provided a quick world-tour of spider types. There are some really good pictures--I particularly liked the shot of the ogre-faced spider waiting to trap an unwary insect--and one or two memorable lines. One thing I really appreciated was that most of the spiders pictured are identified by family name, making them less generic.

The minor drawback: Vocabulary words are italicized, giving the book something of a textbook air, moving it from "This is interesting stuff you might like to know" to "You are being educated." How much this bothers the target audience I don't know. I found it mildly irritating.

It was the end, though, that made me furious. After four chapters (38 pages) if interesting tidbits on spiders, the last chapter drops the "spiders are endangered" bomb. The last few sentences read "Scientists have found evidence of spiders having concentrated levels of lead and other heavy metals in their bodies. More importantly, spider habitats are being destroyed or damaged at an alarming rate in today's world. Spiders themselves are being killed by over-use of chemical pesticides that are sprayed on crops. Perhaps it is time to take these threats seriously."

That's it. The end. What a message for the kids. The final thought is "Spiders are doomed." Sweet dreams, everyone.

There isn't even a token suggestion that we might delay the apocalypse for a while by recycling or not over-watering the garden. The closest thing to it is a suggestion, in a separate text box, that it might be a good idea to "not be overly neat in the yard." Right. Leaving a little clutter is going to save us from the oncoming death of the spider.

Yes, I know that extinction is a concern, and we need to care for the environment, but is this really the absolute, final thought Greenberg meant to leave in his readers' minds? Really?

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