Kirkus Reviews QR Code
THE SPIDER AND THE FLY by Mary Howitt Kirkus Star

THE SPIDER AND THE FLY

By Mary Howitt (Author) , Tony DiTerlizzi (Illustrator)

Age Range: 5 - 9

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-689-85289-4
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

“ ‘Will you walk into my parlor?’ / said the Spider to the Fly.” Howitt’s 1829 cautionary poem is realized here in full cinematic fashion. Delightfully ghoulish full-bleed black-and-white spreads are rendered in gouache and pencil, and reproduced in silver-and-black duotone, resulting in images that recall the slightly fuzzy-edged figures from old black-and-white horror movies. The typeface and occasional framed text pages heighten this effect by evoking silent-movie titles. The setting is a dustily gothic attic in which DiTerlizzi’s (Alien and Possum: Friends No Matter What, p. 494, etc.) “camera” never rests, zooming in, out, up, and down in a dazzling series of perspectives as a top-hatted and bespatted spider romances a naïve flapper fly. Her protestations in the face of his overtures grow ever weaker, and despite the warnings of the ghostly figures of past victims (one brandishes a knife and fork while another points urgently at The Joy of Cooking Bugs), she goes to her inevitable doom. The illustrations embrace the primness of the poem—the wide-eyed fly is the very picture of a bygone innocence—but introduce a wealth of detail that adds a thick layer of humor. Aside from the aforementioned ghosts, evidence of the spider’s predilections abounds: in his parlor, he relaxes with his feet up on a very dead ladybug stool with X’s for eyes. A tongue-in-cheek “letter” from the spider follows the poem, in which he exhorts readers to “be advised that spiders are not the only hunters and bugs are not the only victims.” This cautionary intrusion serves to explicate the metaphor for concretely minded readers, but the message is not likely to diminish their pleasure in the grisly doings one bit. (Picture book. 5-9)