Children's Literature - Donna Freedman
Another new-kid-in-town novel, but a compelling one. Seventh-grader Bobby isn't thrilled about moving to New Paltz, New York, particularly when the local kids find out about his fascination with arachnids. He responds by spinning, well, a web of lies about himself and his family. Will he ever find a way to fit in? Maybe, but not without plenty of struggle first. The author puts Bobby into some sticky situations, like apologizing to the class for his lies-it's nice to see a character face up to his actions instead of having the way smoothed for him. Fletcher's writing is deft, particularly when he uses Bobby's "spider journal" as a way of showing the reader how his character feels.
School Library Journal
Gr 5-7Bobby loves spiders and keeps a journal in which he records interesting facts about them, as well as some personal reflections. He is worried about his pet tarantula because she hasn't eaten since the family moved from Illinois to New Paltz, NY. The boy doesn't have much of an appetite himself. He doesn't fit in with the rest of the seventh graders at his new school. A group of his classmates call him "Spider Boy" and make his life difficult. The use of spiders in Bobby's journal and in the plot is a unique unifying theme of this novel. However, the character development is less successful. It takes awhile for readers to care about Bobby. The supporting characters are stereotypes (bully, understanding teacher, confident older sister). The story moves slowly and is limited in intensity until a final crisis. The resolution is predictable but upbeat. Bobby finds a niche for his unique interests, new friends with whom to play football, and even a little romance.Adele Greenlee, Bethel College, St. Paul, MN
In a story every bit as engaging as Fletcher's Fig Pudding (1995), and less of an emotional rollercoaster to boot, a seventh- grade arachnophile and his beloved tarantula take some time adjusting to a family move.
Between missing his old home and worrying about Thelma (the spider), who has stopped eating, Bobby feels suspended, unable to accept the change in his life long enough to unpack. His parents give him plenty of room and support, plus a huge, ferocious king baboon spider he dubs "Monk" as an early birthday present. Not until two new friends take him firmly in hand, and a bully's harassment escalates into spidercide, does Bobby snap out of it. So does Thelma, who molts and once again takes to pouncing on hapless crickets. Capable of telling wild but utterly convincing tall tales about his family at school, courageous enough to make handsome apologies later (and to face his nemesis without fear), Bobby is a beguiling character who fills his notebook with fascinating spider facts (a bibliography is appended) and trenchant observations: "The female [black widow] allows the male to mate with her. And to show her appreciation she kills him. Eats him. . . . It's lucky human girls aren't this dangerous. Or who knowsmaybe they are." Creating and guiding a winning cast with a light, sure hand, Fletcher puts a fine, fresh spin on a familiar premise.
From the Publisher
"Creating and guiding a winning cast with a light, sure hand, Fletcher puts a fine, fresh spin on a familiar premise." Kirkus Reviews