Did you know that South Sea Islanders weave the golden silk spider's webbing into bags, floor mats and fishing nets; that two spiders of identical species behave differently if one lives in Montana and the other in Moscow; or that there are as many spider species in New Mexico as there are bird species in the United States? Those "spectaculars" and others are seamlessly woven into the narrative of Jennifer Owings Dewey's Spiders Near and Far. The author/artist compares and meticulously depicts the two basic spider types-web builders and wanderers-in a 10- x 10-inch format which provides ample space for close-ups of body parts, web designs, burrow construction and the life-size portraits of 22 spiders.
School Library Journal
Gr 4-6-- The idiosyncrasies of a wide variety of spiders are examined in this succinctly written, well-organized introduction. After opening with a summary of a Pima Indian creation myth, the text goes on to describe briefly the special physical characteristics and behavior of over two dozen species, most of which can be found in the U. S. General information on anatomy, characteristics, diet, use of spider silk, and reproduction is also presented. Large, colored-pencil drawings accompany the text on almost every page. All are clearly labeled with scientific as well as common names. Life-sized drawings of most of these spiders also appear in a two-page appendix. However, the absence of a glossary is a handicap here. Oversimplification is also a problem in the short section devoted to mating. Courting behavior is not described and females do not kill males as often as the text implies. Schnieper's Amazing Spiders (Carolrhoda, 1989) provides more in-depth information on web construction, courtship behavior, mating, and development of young. Also, its close-up color photographs are more detailed and more accurate, color-wise, than Dewey's sometimes brighter-than-nature drawings. Flaws aside, readers will find this attractive title useful. --Karey Wehner, San Francisco Public Library
Like snakes and sharks, spiders hold a fearful fascination. Dewey's handsome color-pencil illustrations and clear, informative text provide a wealth of facts that will add to kids' interest without diminishing their shivery pleasure. She discusses the two main kinds of spiders: web builders, which spin their traps in one place, and wanderers, which move from place to place. How various spiders subdue and kill their prey makes for dramatic reading--from the spitting spider and the black widow to the tarantula and the wolf spider. Dewey also quietly integrates basic information on such things as body structure and reproduction, always stressing how silk is essential for spiders' survival. A final double-page spread shows several particular spiders drawn life-size. Dewey ends with an ecological warning: insects, especially flies, would drive humans from this planet if there were no spiders.
"Jennifer Owings Dewey is a writer and illustrator of many critically acclaimed natural history books for children and adults, including the award winning Clem, the Story of a Raven, Spiders near and Far, Antarctic Journal, Four Months at the Bottom of the World, Paisano the Roadrunner, and Minik's Story, a novel for middle grade readers about a young Inuit girl living in the 19th Century and encountering white people for the first time. Her audience for most of her work in nonfiction is the child reader between the ages of seven and ten.
Jennifer has written three autobiographical novels set in New Mexico, where she
was raised. These novels are considered suitable for young adult readers.
Jennifer's titles reflect her interest in science and the natural world. While she is not a trained scientist she has personally researched all of her titles to ensure accuracy.
Among the honors Jennifer has received is the National Science Teachers Association award for an outstanding body of work in the field of nonfiction for children. For Rattlesnake Dance she received the Spur award. For Wildlife Rescue, the story of a veterinarian known for her extraordinary work with injured wildlife, she received the Orbis Pictus Award given by the National Association of English Teachers.
While awards are wonderful and rewarding to receive, Jennifer expresses that much of the pleasure she experiences as a writer and illustrator comes from doing the research and turning this effort into words and images on paper.
At present she is working on a true story of being lost on a desert in southern New Mexico, the Jornada del Muerto, or Journey of Death. This story will be suitable for both children and adults."