Prather’s Pick: 7 Siberian snow spiders
December 1, 2015
I found this week's funny book only recently while I was browsing through the books in the children's room at the Craig branch of the Moffat County Libraries. It would have been a great selection for Halloween, but I hadn't found it then.
The book is a novel of about 132 pages, and even though it's in the children's library, the book is intended for a good reader — probably fourth or fifth grade. An adult reader would certainly appreciate the book's imaginative plot and humor. It would be a great book to read to kids.
This is not a new book. "Seven Spiders Spinning" was published in 1994. It was written by Gregory Maguire. Illustrator Dirk Zimmer used linoleum cut print to render the black spiders found scattered around the book.
The book's Preface sets up the plot. It seems that "countless thousands of years ago" a mama spider lays seven eggs that hatch into seven blind spiders (blind at birth, that is). They are Siberian snow spiders, sometimes named tarantulas because they will grow up to be quite large.
Apparently these spiders are poisonous, too, because shortly after the babies hatch the mama spider is eaten by a snowy eagle that dies within minutes. Now the babies are orphans.
"Later in the day" the Ice Age begins. The baby spiders become frozen solid in an instant glacier. However, since the babies are "caged" in the ice, they survive the Ice Age. They're the last of their species.
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Along comes Lars Larsen, a Viking sailor, and his crew who are looking for an ocean route to old Cathay. Their guide is a woman named Lubda the Magnificent. One day they all go into a cave to get out of a blizzard. That's when they find the frozen spiders in a hunk of ice. Hubda tells the men all about the spiders and how the world was invented by a spider god. When Lars decides to pry the spider ice off the wall so he can take the spiders home, Hubda takes off and does not return. He thinks they will bring good luck. They do not.
That's only the beginnings of travels for the spiders, and their eyes aren't even open yet. When a scientist finds them he has them shipped to Massachusetts, but a truck driver gets to Vermont when he has an accident, and the crate is damaged. The spiders begin to thaw.
In the Vermont woods seven girls, all members of the Tattletales club, with names like Thekla Mustard and Carly Garfunkle, are on a campout to hatch a plan to beat the Copycats, a boys' club, in a contest at their elementary school. What the girls don't know is that the seven spiders are being drawn to the warmth of the campfire.
The spiders don't show themselves, but they open their eyes for the first time when they get warm, and the first things they see are the girls. Each one picks a girl to be its mama, a form of imprinting.
The spiders build a web in the woods, and they thrive — and grow. One night a girl named Pearl, who does not like clubs, takes a shortcut through the woods. She finds the spiders and decides to capture one for show-and-tell at tomorrow's first day of school. She decides to tell everyone that it is a Siberian spider. (Little does she know…)
So now one spider gets to school, with others to follow — perhaps to find the stolen spider or maybe to find their mothers. There is a lot of hilarious action to follow.
This is a very imaginative, funny book. It was published by Clarion Books. The hardcover book costs about $16 or you can find it at the library.