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Spartacus the Spider

Spartacus the Spider

by Etienne Delessert

Spartacus is a little spider with big web-building problems, but when he devises a way to spin a mighty net, what may be the cost of his triumph?


Spartacus is a little spider with big web-building problems, but when he devises a way to spin a mighty net, what may be the cost of his triumph?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Despite his parents' aspirations ("Honor and fame! This is what my parents wished for me. So they named me Spartacus"), Spartacus's circumstances differ comically from his namesake's. He's a small, furry spider, living in Delessert's trademark dreamy pink landscape, surrounded by creatures with glittery eyes and buckteeth. He's a warrior of a sort, though; he's out to catch flies and moths. Delessert (Moon Theater) portrays him as a gladiator with a miniature helmet, shield, and spear, but they're no help. "I learned to spin threads, but I was not very good at it. Threads broke. Webs drooped. I became overwhelmed by a deep sense of failure." He persists, building a super-strong web by doubling and tripling his own silk, but he is instantly appalled by the carnage his new web brings: "If my web couldn't ever be broken, the world's entire moth population might pile up in it... And flies, even birds! Airplanes?" Though it's a conventional theme--defining heroism not as brute strength, but as being true to oneself--Delessert's poignant exploration of the spider's existential self-doubt is anything but. Ages 5-up. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Our stalwart spider hero was named Spartacus by his parents, who wished him honor and fame. He calls himself "an acrobat on high wires," but unfortunately the threads he spins are no good for catching anything. He is both humiliated and hungry. From a passing mouse, he learns how scientists are weaving stronger cables. He becomes "the great Spartacus," weaver of mighty webs. But then he fears that his webs may be so strong—"unbreakable"— that the whole world would be trapped. So he goes back to spinning his loppy threads, happy to be "simply Spartacus." The picture of our hero on the jacket, in his breaking web but with helmet, shield, and trident, makes us smile along with him. Delessert creates his creatures in sculpturesque style, innovative with a comic twist to the naturalistic representations. A double-page frontal portrait of our hero with puzzled expression fills the space with his delicious helplessness. We must cheer Spartacus's resolve to keep our world secure. Note the contrasting cover. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
PreS—Little Spartacus feels like a failure because of the poor quality of the silk he produces for his webs. Inspired by a passing mouse's news of some scientists who are trying to duplicate the texture of spider threads in order to create strong cables, he doubles and triples his thread until he has spun "the strongest string a spider ever spun." Excited, at first, when it catches every insect that flies in, he soon worries that he will catch too much: "The world would become a giant terrifying net. Unbreakable for eternity." So the little spider happily returns to spinning less-formidable webs. Familiar woodland animals—squirrel, mouse, crow, fly, and spider—are portrayed in roundheaded, pop-eyed cartoon style. Spartacus wears a collanderlike Roman helmet and carries a tiny shield and a spear made of fork tines affixed to a stick, but discards them in the end. Huge close-ups of the spider, mouse, and moth add an interesting variation to the illustrations. Would a hungry little spider that learns to spin a stronger web give up its newfound ability to catch food? This odd anthropomorphic tale offers neither an apparent moral nor a lesson of life, and it doesn't work as pure entertainment.—Susan Scheps, Shaker Heights Public Library, OH
Kirkus Reviews
Confronted with failure followed by success,a jaunty spider puts honor before fame. With his gladiator name, Spartacus should be destined for greatness, but his weak threads and droopy webs make him the laughing stock of escaping flies and moths. Humiliated and hungry, a confounded Spartacus gets a helpful tip from a mouse and soon spins the strongest threads into unbreakable webs. But what if his web traps all the flies, moths, birds and even airplanes--forever? Faced with such daunting consequences, Spartacus decides his "old, loppy threads" may be just fine. Appropriately armed with gladiator helmet, shield and spear, Spartacus tells his story in the first person as he casts silken threads and weaves floppy webs across double-page spreads. Delicate watercolor-and-pencil illustrations in muted browns and grays rely on simple shapes, white space, arresting angles and surprising close-ups to provide a spider's-eye peek at Spartacus and his diminutive engineering feats. Readers should enjoy this eight-legged hero who succeeds by being himself--if they can get over being worried about how he will feed himself. (Picture book. 5-7)

Product Details

Creative Company, The
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
8.60(w) x 12.10(h) x 0.40(d)
Age Range:
6 - 8 Years

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