Seven Spiders Spinning (Hamlet Chronicles Series #1)

Overview

What happens when seven deadly Siberian Snow Spiders from before the dawn of time invade a contemporary classroom in rural Vermont? Bedlam, and one of the funniest, creepiest, ickiest middle-grade Halloween books ever written! 'Demon spiders, lover spiders, greedy spiders, sensitive spiders—they all go on heroic quests that get entangled in classroom rivalries and local soap operas. . . . Everything is part of the comic brew, from the nightly news and Spidergate to Dracula, The Wizard of Oz, Charlotte's Web and ...
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Overview

What happens when seven deadly Siberian Snow Spiders from before the dawn of time invade a contemporary classroom in rural Vermont? Bedlam, and one of the funniest, creepiest, ickiest middle-grade Halloween books ever written! 'Demon spiders, lover spiders, greedy spiders, sensitive spiders—they all go on heroic quests that get entangled in classroom rivalries and local soap operas. . . . Everything is part of the comic brew, from the nightly news and Spidergate to Dracula, The Wizard of Oz, Charlotte's Web and Little Miss Muffet.'—BL. 'A fast, delightfully entertaining romp.'—K.

Notable Children's Books of 1995 (ALA)

Author Biography: Gregory Maguire's debut novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West—the story of a little green girl who grows up to become the Wicked Witch of the West—earned the author rave reviews and a dedicated literary following. Maguire received his doctorate at Tufts University and has served as artist-in-residence at the Blue Mountain Center, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and the Hambidge Center. He lives in Concord, Massachusetts.

Seven prehistoric spiders that had been trapped in ice for thousands of years bring excitement to rural Vermont and briefly unite two rival clubs at a local elementary school.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This high-camp fantasy-mystery uses farcical elements to embellish a tale of spider intrigue. En route to a lab at Harvard, seven Siberian snow spiders escape from the frozen blocks of ice that held them captive for thousands of years. The hapless spiders scuttle their way into Hamlet, Vt., where they witness a meeting of the Tattletales, a club of seven elementary school girls. Besotted by the Tattletales, the spiders set out one by one to meet the girl of their choice-with fatal results. As the spiders' numbers decline, the spurned survivors lose their ardor and begin to seek revenge. Fit into this a subplot involving a romance between the truck driver who transported the spiders and the nurse who lulls him out of a coma by reading love stories and bestowing kisses. Add a meddlesome reporter named Meg Snoople, who is determined to uncover the missing spiders, and the plot only thickens. Though the story moves along at a brisk pace, the humor risks being precious and, sometimes, arch. The compassion of Maguire's more serious and wittier Missing Sisters is absent. Ages 8-12. (Aug.)
School Library Journal
Gr 3-6-Seven tarantulas preserved in a glacier since prehistoric times are discovered, fall out of their refrigerated crate on their way to Harvard scientists, and thaw in rural, present-day Vermont. Given this premise, readers follow the rather intelligent creatures' trail of poisonous love and revenge. The objects of their affection (and later their hate) are The Tattletales, a group of girls whose school rivals are the Copycats (boys). The two groups finally call a truce and combine forces to rescue their beloved teacher, Miss Earth, when she receives a deadly bite. As the tale progresses and each of the arachnids approaches its potential victim, the suspense builds. However, there is quite a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor here, as well. Characters are almost caricatures-the standard bossy girl, studious boy, motherly school aide, and too-good-to-be-true pretty teacher. Yet, somehow it all comes together to create a funny, shivery story of ancient Siberian snow spiders and the problems they cause in a peaceful New England village. The book is a bit long, but would make a great read-aloud and a satisfying choice for fans of humorous horror.- Beth Tegart, Oneida City Schools, NY
From the Publisher
"A fast, delightfully entertaining romp." Kirkus Reviews
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780064405959
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/28/2005
  • Series: Hamlet Chronicles Series , #1
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 144
  • Age range: 8 - 11 Years
  • Lexile: 830L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.18 (w) x 7.60 (h) x 0.34 (d)

Meet the Author

Gregory Maguire

Gregory Maguire is the popular author of many books for children, including the Hamlet Chronicles for Clarion, as well as several adult books, including WICKED (HarperCollins), upon which a Broadway musical was based, and its sequel, CONFESSIONS OF AN UGLY STEPSISTER (Regan Books). He lives in Concord, Massachusetts.

Biography

Raised in a family of writers (his father was a journalist and his stepmother a poet), Gregory Maguire grew up with a great love of books, especially fairy tales and fantasy fiction. He composed his own stories from an early age and released his first book for children, The Lightning Time, in 1978, just two years after graduating from the State University of New York at Albany.

Several other children's book followed, but major recognition eluded Maguire. Then, in 1995, he published his first adult novel. A bold, revisionist view of Frank L. Baum's classic Oz stories, Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West places one of literature's most reviled characters at the center of a dark dystopian fantasy and raises provocative questions about the very nature of good and evil. Purists criticized Maguire for tampering with a beloved juvenile classic, but the book received generally good reviews (John Updike, writing in The New Yorker, proclaimed it "an amazing novel.") and the enthusiasm of readers catapulted it to the top of the bestseller charts. (Maguire's currency increased even further when the book was turned into the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Wicked in 2003.)

In the wake of his breakthrough novel, Maguire has made something of a specialty out of turning classic children's tales on their heads. He retold the legends of Cinderella and Snow White in Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister (1999) and Mirror, Mirror (2003); he raised the ghost of Ebenezer Scrooge in Lost (2001); and, in 2005, he returned to Oz for Son of a Witch, the long-awaited sequel to Wicked. He has reviewed fantasy fiction for the Sunday New York Times Book Review and has contributed his own articles, essays, and stories to publications like Ploughshares, The Boston Review, the Christian Science Monitor, and The Horn Book Magazine.

In addition, Maguire has never lost his interest in -- or enthusiasm for -- children's literature. He is the author of The Hamlet Chronicles, a bestselling seven-book series of high-camp mystery-adventures with silly count-down titles like Seven Spiders Spinning and Three Rotten Eggs. He has taught at the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons College and is a founding member of Children's Literature New England (CLNE), a nonprofit organization that focuses attention on the significance of literature in the lives of children.

Good To Know

In our interview, Maguire shared some fun facts with us about his life:

"While I pride myself on trying to be creative in all areas of my life, I have occasionally gone overboard, like the time I decided to bring to a party a salad that I constructed, on a huge rattan platter, to look like a miniature scale model of the Gardens of Babylon. I built terraces with chunks of Monterey jack, had a forest of broccoli florets and a lagoon of Seven Seas salad dressing spooned into a half a honeydew melon. I made reed patches out of scallion tips and walkways out of sesame seeds lined with raisin borders. Driving to the party, I had to brake to avoid a taxi, and by the time the police flagged me down for poor driving skills I was nearly weeping. ‘But Officer, I have a quickly decomposing Hanging Gardens of Babylon to deliver....' Everything had slopped and fallen over and it looked like a tray of vegetable garbage."

"My first job was scooping ice cream at Friendly's in Albany, New York. I hated the work, most of my colleagues, and the uniform, and I more or less lost my taste for ice cream permanently."

"If I hadn't been a writer, I would have tried to be one of the following: An artist (watercolors), a singer/songwriter like Paul Simon (taller but not very much more), an architect (domestic), a teacher. Actually, in one way or another I have done all of the above, but learned pretty quickly that my skills needed more honing for me to charge for my services, and I'd always rather write fiction than hone skills."

"I steal a bit from one of my favorite writers to say, simply, that I enjoy, most of all, old friends and new places. I love to travel. Having small children at home now impedes my efforts a great deal, but I have managed in my time to get to Asia, Africa, most of Europe, and Central America. My wish list of places not yet visited includes India, Denmark, Brazil, and New Zealand, and my wish for friends not yet made includes, in a sense, readers who are about to discover my work, either now or even when I'm no longer among the living. In a sense, in anticipation, I value those friends in a special way."

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    1. Hometown:
      Boston, Massachusetts
    1. Date of Birth:
      June 9, 1954
    2. Place of Birth:
      Albany, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A., SUNY at Albany, 1976; M.A., Simmons College, 1978; Ph.D., Tufts University, 1990
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One



Fallingin Love Again



"The meeting of the Tattletales will come to order!"

Seven girls sat up straight on their sleeping bags. Six of them looked still and anxious. The Vermont woods bristled at the far edge of the backyard. Hamlet was a small town, and the woods came close. The seventh girl, the one speaking, glanced around in the firelight.

"My name is Thekla Mustard," the speaker began.

"We know who you are, we've all been in school together since kindergarten," pointed out Lois.

"I'm running this meeting," said Thekla Mustard. "Permission to interrupt and complain and carp and be annoying is not awarded, Lois. Fermez la bouche." This meant Shut up, but politely, in French. Lois clamped her mouth shut.

"As you all know, I have been elected Empress of our club for another season. At this our first meeting of the school year, I want to outline the goals and objectives of our club once again. Objections?"

No one spoke. Lois had wanted to be Empress this year, and she popped her gum defiantly, but Thekla chose to pretend it was simply a log snapping in the campfire. The light was golden, the shadows behind them purple and gloomy. As Thekla stood to address the Tattletales, she admitted she cut a magnificent figure in her safari togs complete with pith helmet swathed in muslin. She swayed around the fire to produce a more impressive effect. The tails of her muslin netting trailed poetically behind her.

"School begins next Tuesday," said Thekla Mustard. "The seven of us will find ourselves once again next to our archenemies, our rivals, thebane of our existence: the Copycats."

Thekla fiddled with her veils while the Tattletales spit and fumed and cried, "Boo! Yuck! Scuzz-bombs! Boys stink!"

"Some," said Thekla, "will ask: Why do Copycats exist?"

There was a pause. No one was sure of the rhetorical pattern. "Well, ask," Thekla urged, in a whisper.

"Why do the Copycats exist?" cried Fawn.

"And well you might ask," said Thekla. "You might as well ask why do spiders exist, and rats, and pond scum, and chicken pox — "

"Why do spiders exist, and rats, and — " cried Fawn.

"It's a question of the Natural Order," Thekla explained. "In order to be superior, you have to have lower life forms to be superior to. A cat is superior to a mouse. A dog is superior to a cat. A girl is superior to a boy. "

The girls nodded in righteous agreement and pride, and huddled closer.

"Now, one may wonder what is the goal and objective of our — "

"What is the goal and objective of our club anyway?" shrieked Fawn, getting carried away. Thekla delivered a withering frown with her usual effectiveness. Fawn began to bite her fingernails.

Thekla recounted the history of the Copycats and the Tattletales. How the rivalclubs were founded several years back. How the name of the Tattletales, applied originally by the boys as an insult, had been taken up by the girls. "Defuse the powers Of opposition!" cried Thekla. "We own the language, and we transform it! Does the word tattletales suggest a clot of simpering namby-pambies, idiotic goody-goody two-shoes, authority-bound mushbrains? "

"Does the word tattletales —" began Fawn, but she was drowned out by the other girls shouting, "No!"

"Not anymore," Thekla concluded. "The tales we Tattletales tell are the new legends of dominance and power! The tattling we do is to ourselves! Only by self-criticism will we arise to take our rightful place in the corridors of power!

By this she meant the corridors of the Josiah Fawcett Elementary School.

"Specifically," continued Thekla, "our goal for the next month is to compete against the Copycats in the annual Josiah Fawcett Elementary School Halloween Pageant of Horrors. And we're going to win."

She reviewed how the Tattletales had won first prize for horror the year before. The six girls sat agog in pleasurable glory: Lois, Fawn, Carly, Nina, Sharday, and Anna Maria.

What the girls didn't know was that the seven baby Siberian snow spiders, attracted by the warmth of the campfire, had scrabbled through the underbrush of the forest toward them.

Like all babies, the spiders were impressionable. They wanted warmth and affection. Each one of the seven spiders, crouching in the weeds, warmed by the heat of the campfire, opened its eyes at last. Each one cast its eyes on the seven girls. Each spider picked out a girl to be its mother. This is called imprinting. Baby ducklings can think a farm dog is their mother. Sheepdogs can form filial bonds with shepherds. Each of these tarantulas, left over from the Ice Age, fell in love with its own Tattletale.

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