- I’m Trying to Love Spiders by Bethany Barton
ISBN 978-0-670-01693-8 $16.99 R 5-7 yrs
For every kid who loves bugs, there’s another who shudders at the creepy-crawly; it’s at that second group that this title is aimed, as Barton entertainingly presents arachnid facts while recognizing (and indulging) the primal desire to squash the eight-legged critters. The text is informally informative, as the unseen narrator attempts to get over her fears (“Fatal spider bites are so rare, you have a better chance of getting struck by lightning”) and convince herself that “spiders are cool” (“Next [End Page 76] time I’ll focus on all the cool superpowers spiders have. Like 8 eyes”). Many of her attempts to appreciate arachnids go awry, though, as viewers are encouraged to repeatedly smash a large taupe spider (“AHHHH! It’s moving!! Squish it!! Squish it!! Squish it!!”). Only after the spider dispatches numerous other bugs does the narrator see it in a new light and finally refrain from killing it—unlike the cockroach that escapes the spider’s web. The brisk, breathless tone and the concisely presented information will keep kids’ attention, and the interactive opportunities to smack the illustrated spiders extends a humorous (and entertainingly gross) invitation to even the most arachnophobic readers. Illustrations, rendered in inks, paper, computers, and “concentrated awesome,” utilize plenty of white space and a splotchy, watercolor-like application of airy, cheerful colors to engaging effect. The cartoonish spiders (the poor guys who keep getting smooshed are endearingly goggle-eyed) are more amusing than truly creepy, keeping the overall feeling lighthearted. Adults wanting to jolt some new life into spider-themed units or storytimes will want to get their hands on this book.