For their latest memorable venture into microscopic worlds, two veteran collaborators bring children face to face with the original “web masters” (Bug Shots, 2011, etc.).
“To know a spider you must first look into its eyes.” Along with being a proposition as riveting as it is uninviting for most readers, Siy’s observation is literally true, as the arrangement of their multiple eyes is often a key to spider identification. Expanding on her taxonomic topic, the author focuses on observable behaviors and physical characteristics throughout a general overview and brief introductions to 10 arachnids. She closes with specific methodology that includes both a chart of eye patterns and a set of systematic questions that will help distinguish true spiders from close relatives. As always, Kunkel’s bright, sharp, close-up photographs and even closer-up electron micrographs, all with detailed production notes, are a highlight—the former artfully angled to show body parts and coloration, the latter using false colors to make spinnerets and other tiny physical features easily visible. Though the author’s argument that spiders are our friends (in support of which she even enlists E.B. White’s Charlotte) is vitiated by frequent images and mentions of black widows, brown recluses, some Australian spiders, and how seldom anyone actually dies from venomous bites, the mixed message will still draw both budding naturalists and readers after cheap thrills in equal numbers.
An unusual approach to the creepiest of crawlies, likely to snare unwary passers-by in droves. (index, multimedia resource lists, glossary) (Nonfiction. 8-11)