Spiders are a little scary, even the pretty ones and even the ones that come bearing delicious gifts.
Mind you, Johnny is not pretty. He’s got a nice smile (complete with upward-tending fangs) and rosy checks, but other creatures tend to look askance at the round, black, bug-eyed spider. Johnny can’t get a word out of his mouth before the other creatures heap scorn upon him and flee, even though he bears a cake box. They variously call him a “stinky, prickly beast,” an “itchy-scratchy thing,” a “filthy, fat slimeball” (says the snail), and an “awfully ugly creep.” So Johnny dolefully sings “Happy Birthday” to himself and then scarfs the whole cake. “Johnny is a very sweet [literally, metaphorically] spider, but nobody knows that….Except you! So if you see Johnny around, give him a very big kiss,” the text concludes. It is hard to know if this book is one big pull on the leg. The expressive, cartoony artwork is nice and rich, but spiders don’t stink, scratch, produce slime, or revel in filth, though they do creep (in scary bursts). And give a spider a “very big kiss”? You first. Van Genechten has given expectations a good twist, but the story is short on harmony or communication—for that matter, it’s short on story.
Unlikely to turn many arachnophobes, despite Johnny’s cheery smile. (Picture book. 3-6)