A brief phrase or sentence on each double-page spread opposite an illustration introduces the variety of creatures in the arachnid class of arthropods, while listing the characteristics they share�eight legs, two main body parts, outside skeleton, along with other important facts about their location and behavior. The fifteen creatures depicted and named are then each described in detail in paragraphs in the Afterword. John Sill's naturalistic watercolor depictions of each arachnid in a typical action are made visually appealing while supplying the facts of their natural history. A useful reference as well as a way to make these creatures less frightening. 2003, Peachtree Publishers,
Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
K-Gr 3-In this addition to the Sills' nature series, 15 full-page watercolor paintings depict 16 kinds of arachnids. The text briefly describes either a physical or behavioral characteristic common to all arachnids, or a special characteristic of the one shown. For instance, the line accompanying a painting of a brown daddy longlegs reads, "Arachnids have eight legs-" while the sentence, "Many arachnids spin silk to help them capture food" appears opposite a portrait of a golden silk spider in the middle of its web. In an afterword, short blocks of additional text offer more detail and miscellaneous bits of information. The primary focus here is on the paintings. The watercolors of invertebrates in natural settings are attractive and realistic, reflecting the messy details of nature-leaf litter, leaves with holes chewed in them, etc. However, the artwork isn't always entirely successful. For instance, the text states that arachnids have "-two main body parts," but it is hard to see two distinct parts in the painting of the desert tarantula since it shows only a side view of the spider and its front legs and carapace are virtually the same color. The depictions of ticks and garden spiderlings are so small that it is difficult to distinguish characteristics. Margery Facklam's Spiders and Their Web Sites (Little, Brown, 2001) provides more thorough descriptions of six of the same spiders, plus the daddy longlegs, and is illustrated with clear close-up drawings.-Karey Wehner, formerly at San Francisco Public Library Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
The Sills continue their tour (About Fish, not reviewed, etc.) through the animal kingdom, introducing 16 spiders, mites, scorpions and other arachnids with full-page portraits, captioned by one-lined general observations: "Most arachnids are predators, hunting for and eating smaller animals." The presentation is somewhat uneven; though most of the paintings are meticulously exact close-ups. Both the Eastern Wood Ticks on a rabbit's ear and the young Garden Spiders launching themselves into the air on strands of silk are too tiny to make out useful details, and the follow-up notes at the end gather fascinating facts but do not consistently specify size, range, or, sometimes, even diet for the chosen examples. Still, the scenes of a (harmless) Daring Jumping Spider perched atop a bottle cap, or the (far from harmless) Brown Recluse lurking in an empty shoe, along with an array of fearsome-looking scorpions, should give casual browsers a delighted shiver or two. And young readers in general will benefit from the reminder (or news) that spiders have such a variety of close relatives. (Picture book/nonfiction. 7-9)