Silk and Venom: Searching for a Dangerous Spider

Overview

Join a researcher on a passionate hunt for poisonous spiders, captured in the engaging prose and stunning photos of a masterful team.

Love them, hate them — spiders are feared and misunderstood by many, but certainly not by biology professor and arachnologist Greta Binford. Eager and willing to share her knowledge, she allowed New York Times best-selling author Kathryn Lasky and noted photographer Christopher G. Knight to accompany her on a trek to the Caribbean in search of the...

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Overview

Join a researcher on a passionate hunt for poisonous spiders, captured in the engaging prose and stunning photos of a masterful team.

Love them, hate them — spiders are feared and misunderstood by many, but certainly not by biology professor and arachnologist Greta Binford. Eager and willing to share her knowledge, she allowed New York Times best-selling author Kathryn Lasky and noted photographer Christopher G. Knight to accompany her on a trek to the Caribbean in search of the elusive Loxosceles — the deadly recluse spider — whose venom may hold in its DNA the answer to many scientific questions. We see firsthand her fearless search (sometimes enlisting the help of local schoolchildren), through outdoor markets, garbage dumps, and the desertlike interior of the Dominican Republic. A lively, informative narrative and intimate photos of everything from careful venom-milking in a lab to multicolored spiders in shimmering webs are likely to lure even the most committed arachnophobe.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Denise A. Lockett
This narrative offers the opportunity to follow intrepid biologist Greta Binford as she treks through the Dominican Republic in search of her prey: a miniscule spider called Loxosceles taino. A relative of the brown recluse, this spider is highly poisonous and shy. The shy and rare spider is no match for Greta, who displays a lifelong love of learning and an indefatigable tenacity. This blow-by-blow narrative offers an extremely thorough and yet personal portrait of the work of a successful biologist. The book is a useful, anecdotal introduction to the process of scientific education and discovery, and follows Greta's journey from a curious childhood to her accomplishments as a world-renowned arachnologist and teacher. The photographs are visually striking companions to the text, and are arrayed so that the chronological journey has an investigatory quality that draws the reader in. The text provides a panoramic scope that offers a glimpse into the learning, labwork and legwork required of biologists. Not for the arachnophobic, this text offers many up-close photos of the spider subject of Greta's search. It is an easy introduction to the process of field research. The text is followed by a brilliant "Glossary of Spiders" that offers accompanying photographs to put "faces with names," identifying different subjects of Greta's research, and the book also provides a useful bibliography of books and websites that offer current, appropriate next steps for those who cannot get enough of arachnology. The index is thorough as well. Reviewer: Denise A. Lockett
School Library Journal
Gr 4–8—Greta Binford is a zoologist and spider specialist with a particular passion for the Loxosceles branch of the spider family, which is more commonly known as the brown recluse. Readers travel with her to the Dominican Republic as she and her associates search for these elusive, venomous spiders under open market stalls and around abandoned buildings. She is attempting to use the DNA of these creatures to trace their early origins. Lasky also describes Binford's research lab where she milks spiders for their venom and shares quite a bit of information about a wide variety of fascinating spiders. Lasky does an excellent job of drawing readers into the spider world, balancing fact with action and intrigue. Excellent-quality full-color photographs of all kinds of spiders, their webs, and habitats appear on nearly every spread. The combination of beauty and deadliness is both compelling and vaguely repellent, which makes for a winning recipe for young readers. A photo glossary of all the spiders mentioned is enormously helpful, as is a source list of books and websites. Display or booktalk this with Sy Montgomery's The Tarantula Scientist (Houghton, 2004), Nic Bishop's Spiders (Scholastic, 2007), and Seymour Simon's Spiders (HarperCollins, 2003) for a creepy, crawly extravaganza.—Jody Kopple, Shady Hill School, Cambridge, MA
Kirkus Reviews

Biology professor Greta Binford studies spiders in an Oregon lab and in the field in the Dominican Republic, where she searches forL. Taino, a Caribbean relative of the venomous brown recluse that might provide clues to how and when the recluse genus arrived in North America. The husband-and-wife team who produced the Newbery Honor–winningSugaring Time(1983), as well as many other titles, follow the arachnologist, beginning with her investigations on the family farm in Indiana. In leisurely, literary prose, Lasky presents the ancient class of arachnids before introducing the scientist and explaining her quest. In the field, Greta looks for particular species whose DNA and venom, when analyzed, can help fill out the family tree. "It's not a simple story," the scientist says; neither is the book. On most spreads, a full-bleed photograph is opposed by substantial text and one or two smaller pictures, many without captions. There are occasional maps, and the end matter includes a picture glossary with Latin and common names, which serves as an index to the spider photographs. (sources, index)(Nonfiction. 10-14)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780763642228
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Publication date: 2/22/2011
  • Pages: 64
  • Sales rank: 1,388,260
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 1050L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 9.80 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Kathryn Lasky writes award-winning books for children across all genres. Her many illustrated nonfiction titles include the Newbery Honor book Sugaring Time as well as One Beetle Too Many: The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwin; Interrupted Journey: Saving Endangered Sea Turtles; and John Muir: America’s First Environmentalist. Kathryn Lasky and her husband, Christopher G. Knight, live in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Christopher G. Knight is a documentary filmmaker as well as photographer. His photographs illustrate Kathryn Lasky’s Interrupted Journey: Saving Endangered Sea Turtles and Sugaring Time.

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