Spider Kane and the Mystery Under the May-Apple


Leon Leafwing's new girlfriend, the lovely Mimi, has disappeared! His ladybug pals inform him that it's a case for Spider Kane, the dashing detective who is cool, clever and well heeled (eight times over). Spider Kane is on the case, and soon he and Leon are plunged into a web of intrigue, mystery and mayhem. For all those Mary Pope Osborne fans ready for middle grade reading comes this Stepping Stone book, complete with a brand new cover!

Lieutenant Leon Leafwing ...

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Leon Leafwing's new girlfriend, the lovely Mimi, has disappeared! His ladybug pals inform him that it's a case for Spider Kane, the dashing detective who is cool, clever and well heeled (eight times over). Spider Kane is on the case, and soon he and Leon are plunged into a web of intrigue, mystery and mayhem. For all those Mary Pope Osborne fans ready for middle grade reading comes this Stepping Stone book, complete with a brand new cover!

Lieutenant Leon Leafwing and Detective Spider Kane investigate the mysterious disappearance of Leon's mother and members of the Order of the Moth.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This slender and ultimately unsatisfying mystery concerns the insect inhabitants of Cottage Garden, chief among them Leon Leafwing, an earnest bug whose infatuation with a beautiful and inexplicably vanished butterfly fuels the plot. Led by more experienced adventurers, Leon sets out to rescue Mimi from her alleged kidnapper, the evil Emperor Moth. But after an entertaining ramble to the Dark Swamp--the book's high point in terms of suspense, following a slow start--Leon learns that the kidnapping was staged, the Emperor Moth merely invented,stet comma and the expedition mounted only to test his mettle for prospective membership in a sort of good-citizens' band. Though Leon recovers from his disappointment, the reader is left feeling let down and cheated. Chess's antic drawings--her eccentricity shines through even in black-and-white--are the highlight of this overly silly, insubstantial story, whose ``mystery'' evaporates before the end. Ages 6-12. (Apr.)
Children's Literature - Ellen R. Braaf
Leon Leafwing, an impulsive young butterfly, lives in the Cottage Garden with his social-climbing mother, Le Mère. Drawn into a plot of deception and intrigue, Leon makes the acquaintance of the star of this mystery series when he investigates the disappearance of a beautiful, gossamer-winged butterfly named Mimi. Spider Kane is an eight-legged cross between Sherlock Holmes and Inspector Clouseau. A retired military hero, world traveler, and jazz clarinetist with a penchant for show tunes, Kane banded together with Hawk and Rosie (who served with him in the Mosquito Wars) to found the Order of the MOTH--Mission: Only To Help. Mimi's disappearance is only a ruse designed to test Leon's mettle. The daring young butterfly passes his initiation test and becomes a member of the secret society dedicated to help those who can't help themselves. A delightful, fast paced page-turner. 1999 (orig.
Children's Literature - Susan Hepler
The second book in the series about the spider detective, jazz musician, and bon vivant features a gold shipment stolen off stage. When Spider's group of fellow insect detectives are kidnapped, he and his remaining Lieutenant Lacewing solve the mystery by close observation, putting things together, disguise, and surprise. Snappy dialogue, which uses conventions of the genre, a buggy atmospheric setting, with puns and clues carefully laid out for novice readers, the book is a good introduction to the detective/mystery genre. No illustrations are included in this paperback edition, however. "Spider Kane" series.
School Library Journal
Gr 3-6-- Soon after he meets Mimi--a gentle, gossamer-winged butterfly with whom he instantly falls in love--Leon Leafwing finds himself entangled in a web of insect intrigue. Her mysterious disappearance prompts the earnest young butterfly to visit Spider Kane--``traveling jazz musician playwright'' and brilliant detective. The sleuth surmises that Mimi has been snatched by the despicable Emperor Moth and proposes a mission for her rescue. With Spider's guidance and the help of some arthropod friends, Leon embarks on an adventure that tests his strength and courage. A suprise ending sets the stage for future expeditions. Using unpredictable plot twists, clever characterizations, and a melodramatic tone, Osborne weaves an amusing and suspenseful tale that echoes a Sherlock Holmes thriller. Subtly placed clues involve readers from the beginning, as do detailed descriptions of miniature furnishings and foods. Chess's black-and-white drawings capture the humor of the tale (it's hard not to snicker at Leon's four legs clad in checkered pants) and add to its appeal as a read-aloud. --Joy Fleishhacker, Brooklyn Children's Museum
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679808558
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 3/1/1992
  • Series: Spider Kane Series
  • Pages: 117
  • Age range: 8 - 10 Years
  • Lexile: 650L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.07 (w) x 7.53 (h) x 0.33 (d)

Meet the Author

Mary Pope Osborne
Mary Pope Osborne
Mary Pope Osborne has channeled a lifelong love of exploration and travel into one of the most popular children’s book series of the past two decades. With her fantastic Magic Tree House series, Mary Pope Osborne keeps the good times rolling for kids all over the world.


Ever since 1992, Mary Pope Osborne has been thrilling kids everywhere with her delightfully exciting Magic Tree House series. The globetrotting escapades of time travelers Jack and Annie are brimming with adventure and magic (not to mention some subtly placed lessons on history and geography). With a life like Osborne's, it's only natural that she would be capable of bringing such wondrous stories to life.

Osborne was brought up in a military family, and her parents' work led to a lifestyle marked by constant change. "By the time I was 15," she says on randomhouse.com, "I had lived in Oklahoma, Austria, Florida, and four different army posts in Virginia and North Carolina." While many kids would probably feel disoriented by such constant change, Osborne wouldn't have had it any other way. "Moving was never traumatic for me, but staying in one place was. When my dad finally retired to a small town in North Carolina, I nearly went crazy with boredom. I craved the adventure and changing scenery of our military life."

And adventure is exactly what Osborne got! After college, she embarked on a series of daring treks across the globe that would surely give Jack and Annie a run for their money. "For a while I camped in a cave on the island of Crete," she said. "Then I joined up with a small band of European young people heading to 'The East.' We traveled through 11 Asian countries and nearly lost our lives, first in an earthquake in northern Afghanistan and then in a riot in Kabul."

Following an illness she contracted in Katmandu, Osborne returned home to the U.S. trying her hand at a vast variety of jobs: window dresser, medical assistant, Russian travel consultant, waitress, bartender, and an assistant editor at a children's magazine. Although Osborne had unconsciously moved closer toward her ultimate career, she says that her first attempts at writing seemed to come without warning. "One day, out of the blue, I began writing a story about an 11-year-old girl in the South," she recalls. "The girl was a lot like me, and many of the incidents in the story were similar to happenings in my childhood...it became a young adult novel called Run, Run Fast as You Can. Finally, I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up."

She sure did! Since then, Osborne has penned a slew of stories, including picture books, chapter books, middle-grade biographies, and young adult novels; but she is indisputably best known for her wonderful Magic Tree House books, a happy hodge-podge of history and mystery with a time travel theme kids find irresistible. No doubt inspired by Osborne's own highly adventurous life, these exiting expeditions have attracted droves of children and pleased educators by combining compulsively readable storytelling with useful facts about geography and history.

As was written of the series in Children's Literature, "Mary Pope Osborne provides nicely paced excitement for young readers, and there's just enough information mixed in so that children will take away some historical fact along with a sense of accomplishment at having completed a chapter book." As much as Osborne has certainly pleased her readers (not to mention their parents and teachers), perhaps no one is quite as pleased as she. "I'm one of those very lucky people who absolutely loves what they do for a living," she explained. "There is no career better suited to my eccentricities, strengths, and passions than that of a children's book author."

Good To Know

A few fascinating outtakes from our interview with Osborne:

"One of the most defining experiences of my life was traveling overland in an old van through the Middle East and Asia in the early 1970's. One day, when a small group of us were camped in a remote part of northern Afghanistan, we saw a woman riding horseback over the sloping plain. Her long brown hair floated on the wind and she wore a bright gypsy-style dress. When she got closer, I realized she was one of my roommates from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill! Though I didn't even know she'd left the U.S.—and she didn't know I was in Afghanistan, we weren't that surprised to come upon each other. That says a lot about the times we were living in then."

"After 26 years of living in New York City, my husband Will and I now spend most of our time in Northwestern Connecticut, living in a house that overlooks a lake. We kayak and hike with our two Norfolk terriers, Joey and Mr. Bezo. Will's learning Italian, and I've been working with a tutor for two years trying to understand Dante's Divine Comedy. One of my biggest hobbies is reading philosophy and theology. We spend lots of time, of course, on our work. After writing three shows for the Morehead Planetarium in North Carolina, Will's writing a musical based on the Magic Tree House series. I'm writing book # 38 in the series. I also spend a lot of time with my sister Natalie Pope Boyce who works on the Magic Tree House Research Guides. Natalie and our nephews and some of our best friends live nearby in the Berkshires Hills of Massachusetts, so we're up there a lot, too. My only complaint is there is not enough time to do all I want to do. For instance, I'd love to take drawing classes and I'd love to paint the lake we're living on. And I'd love to bird watch and become a better cook and learn about classical music. Maybe sometime in the future...."

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    1. Hometown:
      Goshen, Connecticut
    1. Date of Birth:
      May 20, 1949
    2. Place of Birth:
      Fort Sill, Oklahoma
    1. Education:
      B.A., University of North Carolina
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 6

"I think I've found it! I hear music!" Rosie shouted as she led the way along the crumbling stone wall, searching for the entrance to Spider Kane's home.

Leon and Little Pickles followed her into a tiny, cavelike hollow between two stones. Then they groped their way down a dark tunnel that led to the elegant chambers of Spider Kane.

They found him playing a jazz tune on a clarinet made from a hollow river reed. The lively music moved in time with a leaping candle flame, and shadows danced on the chalky stone walls and silken floor. Beside the spider was a briarwood pipe and a golden goblet made from a touch-me-not flower. Around his shoulders was a paisley dressing gown.

When the jazzy song ended, Rosie spoke softly: "Spy?"

Spider Kane jerked around to face his three visitors. Then he burst into laughter. "Lieutenant Rose! Good heavens!"

The two hugged each other warmly. Then Rosie said, "Spy, I'd like you to meet two dear friends, Little Pickles and Leon Leafwing -- "

"Hello, Miss Pickles! What a pleasure," said Spider Kane in his deep, velvety voice.

"Gracious," said Little Pickles, trembling with excitement.

As Spider Kane turned to him, Leon quickly slipped on Mimi's dark glasses to hide his teary, swollen eyes.

"Hello, Mr. Leafwing, very pleased to meet you, too," said Spider Kane.

"Thank you. You can call me Leon."

"Fine, Leon. Now sit! All of you, sit and let me get you something to drink!" Spider Kane moved across the room with a slight limp. Then he poured a dark red liquid into three golden touch-me-not goblets. "Vintage cherry juice," he said. "How about some dinner?Parsnip pie? Peas in pastry shells?"

"No thank you, Mr. Kane," said Little Pickles. "We've already eaten."

"Ah, yes, I see that now. You dined on black bean soup."

"How did you know?" stammered Little Pickles.

"I've studied food stains for many years, Miss Pickles," he said. "The dark blotches on your blouse are definitely black bean soup."

"Oh, dear," said Little Pickles, blushing and putting her hand over the stains.

Rosie laughed. "I see you haven't lost your touch, Spy."

"No, indeed, Lieutenant Rose."

"Good," said Rosie. "Because we need your help tonight. Leon is in great distress."

"Ah." The spider fixed his eyes on the butterfly. "Would you kindly remove your glasses, sir?"

When Leon took off Mimi's dark glasses, Spider Kane stared at his red eyes. "Your girlfriend," the spider said softly.

"How did you know?"

"Your tear-stained face speaks a thousand words, Leon. As does the wilted lilac in your buttonhole. I assume you paid a call on her -- and she wasn't there?"

"That's right," said Leon sadly. "Her books were torn apart, her furniture was broken. I just found these little glasses --"

"Ah, let me see." Spider Kane took the dark glasses from Leon and studied them. "But the gossamer-winged lady was missing," he said quietly.

Leon gasped. "How -- did you know she was a gossamer-winged butterfly?"

"I have a rare gift of being able to make instant and perfect calculations of size without the use of a measuring tool," said Spider Kane. "I can tell you that these dark glasses exactly fit the head of a gossamer-winged butterfly."

"You know the head size of a gossamer-winged butterfly?"

"I know the head sizes of over two hundred different kinds of butterflies, my friend. If these belonged to a butterfly in your family, they'd be half a micrometer larger."

As Leon laughed with astonishment, Spider Kane smiled and lit his pipe.
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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 15, 2000

    got bugs?

    this book was toatally outstanding.i give it five stars.even if you don't like bugs,this book will change your mind!!

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