The most enjoyable picture books are those where the adult reader can be laughing out loud at the end as much as the child. This is one of those books. Written and illustrated by Lydia Monks (see I Wish I Were A Dog) the story follows a lonely but determined spider who wants to become a family pet.
Apparently Lydia Monks is (like me!) afraid of spiders, but this book is as impressive a defence of spiders as you will find. The spider sets out to prove that she is a fabulous pet, by dancing, washing herself and showing that she can catch her own food, unlike the existing pets of the family she wants to join. Unfortunately the family are unappreciative of her efforts and show her the door repeatedly. I had to laugh when the father carries her outside on top of a letter under a glass, as that is exactly the way we have always disposed of spiders. Every time she is seen the family shout ‘Aaaarrgghh, spider! Out you go!’ which is great fun for all small people listening.
Eventually the spider gives up and goes to live in the garden. But her beautiful double-page spread of (glitter-enhanced) webs convinces the family she may be an ideal pet after all. She is delighted. She goes for walks, travels in the car, goes shopping – a ‘real true proper pet’. So excited is she, in fact, that she can’t wait for her new family to meet all her friends…
This is great fun. Lydia Monks’ unique graphic style does not appeal to everyone, but here it lends itself brilliantly to the shocked faces of the family every time the spider appears. The page covered in webs is visually arresting and the book both acknowledges the general distrust of spiders and argues their case, without in any way endorsing them as scary. The last page is a superb punchline and full of clever and funny details.
This has become a huge favourite in our house and is a great book for both toddlers and preschoolers. It’s quite short, and the repeated ‘Aaaarrgghh spider!’ is easy for tiny ones to say and to enjoy. In fact I am repeatedly pursued around the house by the youngest shouting ‘Aaaarrgghh Spider! Aaaarrgghh Spider!’ and brandishing it enthusiastically.
Definitely a great addition to any family library.