Montgomery's lively prose shows readers what a passion for a topic can turn into. Sam Marshall, a college biology teacher and researcher, is followed by Montgomery and photographer Nic Bishop as he studies Goliath bird-eater tarantulas on the forest floor in Tresor Reserve, French Guiana. It is along way from Hiram, Ohio to South America. Without the emphasis of sidebars or headings, the text simply tells what Marshall does but the reader learns plenty about scientific procedure, patience, preparedness and the right tool (even if it is a stick or cottage cheese container), comparison by quadrant, measurement and its uses, and careful notes. Montgomery works readers through the way science classifies spiders, types of spiders, the Goliath's qualities, and what Marshall is learning. Bishop's pristine photos show close-up, and well-lit, the spider part under investigation and the way scientists sometimes look as a somewhat worn and sweaty Marshall lies in the dirt, making notes, teasing spiders out of their holes or weighing them. Invitations to readers are sprinkled through the book in the form of direct address, posing of unanswered questions, interesting speculations as to why certain spiders behave the way they do, listing other spiders that no one has studied yet, and fittingly, the book ends with one of Marshall's college students who is seen back in Ohio using the computer in her own spider studies. As in other books in the series, this one introduces us to animals, habitat, a career in the sciences, and ecology with a thoughtful note on why we would wish to preserve the habitat of these animals. End matter includes cautionary notes about handling tarantulas (preferably not at all),spider stats, spider vocabulary, "how this book was researched," bibliography, websites, how to contact spider watching sites in French Guiana, and an index. This excellent entry in the series shows just how good Montgomery and Bishop have become in the hard work of conveying information by seeming effortlessness. It is a wonderful nonfiction book, in every sense of the word. This is a volume in the "Scientists in the Field" series. 2004, Houghton Mifflin, Ages 9 to 14.
Susan Hepler, Ph.D.
Gr 5-10-Superb color photos abound in this spectacular series addition. Readers follow the career of Sam Marshall, tarantula scientist extraordinaire, from his "Spider Lab" at Hiram College in Ohio to the rain forests of French Guiana as he hunts for, finds, and studies the creatures he loves so well. The conversational text contains as much spider lore as scientific investigation and provides a cheerful look at a dedicated scientist. (The fact that he did not do well in school may encourage those late bloomers who have not yet found their passion in life or believe it to be far beyond their academic grasp.) Informative, yes, but even more important, this is a vivid look at an enthusiastic scientist energetically and happily at work, both in the field and in the lab, questioning, examining, testing, and making connections. A treat, even for arachnophobes.-Patricia Manning, formerly at Eastchester Public Library, NY Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Sam Marshall loved animals, but disliked school-until a college research project on tarantulas made him realize that science is a process, not a set of answers. Montgomery and Bishop team up for another stellar excursion into the world of working scientists. They accompany Marshall on a research trip to the rainforests of French Guiana, and document his enthusiasm for large, hairy "spider dinosaurs" in crisp, detailed photographs and clear, lively prose. Returning with him to his Hiram College lab, filled with spiders, student researchers, and questions, they show what kind of questions scientists ask about spiders, and how they learn the answers. Montgomery has a gift for scene-setting, describing Marshall's activities in just enough detail. She deftly weaves clear explanations and comparisons into the main text (" . . . their 'skin' is called an exoskeleton, because exo-like exit-means 'outside' "). Bishop's phenomenal photos show spiders mating, shedding their skin, even leaping through the air. It's enough to make Miss Muffet fall in love. (Nonfiction. 8-14)
"Montgomery has a gift for scene-setting... She deftly weaves clear explanations and comparisons into the main text... Bishop's phenomenal photos show spiders mating, shedding their skin, even leaping through the air. It's enough to make Miss Muffet fall in love." Kirkus Reviews, Starred
"...this is a vivid look at an enthusiastic scientist energetically and happily at work, both in the field and in the lab, questioning, examining, testing, and making connections. A treat, even for arachnophobes." School Library Journal, Starred
"Bishop's photographs rise magnificently to the challenge of capturing earth-toned spiders amid earth-toned jungle surroundings, bringing the critters up-close and personal and offering a few of his trademark astonishing stop-action shots... This would liven up a science curriculum no end, and it might also convince young readers to go beyond the elemental pleasures of 'Ew, gross' to the more sophisticated appreciation of 'Wow, cool.'" The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, Starred
This beautifully photographed book explains just about everything an elementary school student might want to know about this often misunderstood and maligned creature.
The Five Owls, Starred