Science Comics: Spiders: Worldwide Web
It’s rare for the Science Comics line to have a misstep. Most of their books are both entertaining and wildly informative, with a ton of facts woven into a story. It’s that combination that makes learning easy. Unfortunately, story is where Science Comics: Spiders: Worldwide Web falls down, as the book by Tait Howard is mostly an overwhelming list of facts. There’s no space to give the reader a chance to understand or remember what they’re being shown. The balance is off.
Charlotte and her brother Peter are sent to look for something in the basement. Peter is afraid of spiders, but Tepi, a spider who’s also a scientist (thus the lab coat) uses the opportunity to tell the children all about many kinds of spiders.
There are a lot of them. And that’s part of the problem. The reader isn’t given any connection to the many information chunks. The characters are flat, even the biologist spider, because there’s no room to find out anything about them. What might be interesting in this premise isn’t followed up on in favor of more lists of facts.
The spider happens to have a shrink ray, which lets the kids accompany Tepi on a quest to find her child. As they look, they meet many species around the world. This could be presumed to create a sense of adventure, but more often, it’s “another, more, again?” It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and begin flipping pages to find something more interesting.
A lot isn’t followed up on. It would have been great to see Peter’s fear of spiders more explicitly addressed, but instead we get a page of random information bits on arachnophobia.
Although there are plenty of potentially interesting elements here, too much of the story reads like a textbook, with Tepi reciting facts and taxonomy. This book should not be boring, but it is. Too much is told, not shown, although Howard does an excellent job drawing the variety of spider species. The art is more illustration than storytelling.
(Review originally posted at Good Comics for Kids.)