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Children's Book Review:

The Spider and the Fly

Children's Book Review: The Spider and the Fly
Children's Book

By Mary Howitt

Illustrated by Tony Di Terlizzi

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Our Recommended Age: Ages 6+

Our Rating: A

about our reviews:
All reviews at Edutaining Kids are independent and impartial. Our children's book reviews are designed to help parents and caregivers find engaging books for their kids. Evaluations and ratings are based on educational and entertainment value, age appropriate content, and innovativeness.


1920’s horror films provide the artistic inspiration for this fascinating children’s book. The Spider and the Fly features artwork by Tony DiTerlizzi. However, the text is by Mary Howitt who was born in 1799. She died in 1888 but left behind her classic poem, “The Spider and the Fly” containing the infamous line, “Will you walk into my parlor said the spider to the fly…” DiTerlizzi has managed to recapture the “cautionary” and captivating essence of the old poem by pairing it with his illustrations. Because the illustrations are quite dark and the text is rather scary, this book, while for young readers, might be best suited for the more mature of this audience.

Children who aren’t easily afraid, of course, will thrill at their first reading of this gem of a book. While most children’s picture books feature the expected happy ending, this Caldecott Honor book offers, instead, a dose of healthy realism. Anyone familiar with Howitt’s poem may well remember the lines, “He dragged her up to his winding stair, into his dismal den, within his little parlor—but she ne’er came out again!” And, poor fly that she is—she suffers a sad fate despite the fact that she is so skillfully rendered by the artist. The skinny little waif of a fly is depicted as a 1920s flapper-style girl who flapped into the wrong part of town.

Town, however, is actually a child’s room. The action of the tale takes place in a “haunted” toy house perched atop a stack of books. DiTerlizzi worked in pencil, creating dark atmospheric pages that perfectly match the tone and storyline of the verses.

DiTerlizzi is well-deserving of all the praise given to this book’s artwork. The details fill the pages in the form of 1920's props such as old record players. But the spider’s domain is a joy to behold. Although the unsuspecting fly does not notice, older readers will spy the cookbook under the spider’s leg titled “The Joy of Cooking Bugs.”

There are also Art Nouveau-style light fixtures employing fly-shaped lamps to dimly light the rooms. Wallpaper features a pattern of flies as well. The spider is a pudgy, obviously well-nourished creation, who plays the consummate host quite well until he is ready to spring. The text is centered in a spider-web that is a great touch to behold.

The end of the book features information about Howitt and DiTerlizzi. There is also a charming, tongue-in-cheek letter from the spider to children that warns them to “take what has transpired within these pages to heart” as he sits before a plate with our heroine’s hat atop it.

Altogether, this is a dark delight—perfect for Halloween reading. But children who like a good scare will love it year-round.

Our Rating:


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Reviewed: June 2009

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