Thursday, September 24, 2015

Seven Spiders Spinning

Seven Spiders Spinning
Gregory Maguire
Harper Collins, 1994 132 pgs
Grades 3-6

A crate of deadly prehistoric Siberian Snow Spiders, previously frozen for thousands of years, has fallen off a truck in all places: Hamlet, Vermont. The spiders emerge from their eggs and instantly imprint on the first animals they see: seven fifth grade girls from Miss Earth's class. Miss Earth's class has a common problem for that age group: the boys and girls are against each other and have formed two separate clubs. Only Pearl Hotchkiss chooses to not be on either side. It is Pearl who discovers the first spider in the woods and takes it home for a pet. The students in Miss Earth's class are planning for the school's big Halloween extravaganza and organizing two plays. The boy's play is inspired by the missing spiders, which have made national headlines, all while actually being observed and infiltrated by the spiders themselves. First one and then another and then another spider is drawn to the school and one of the girls, only to reach an unfortunate and, usually quite accidental, demise. Meanwhile, the injured truck driver originally transporting the spiders, his nurse and new fiance, and a sensational newscaster are on the trail of the missing arachnids. The plot reaches a thrilling conclusion at the Halloween play, where the kids are forced from time constraints to merge their plays, and the final spider makes a dramatic attack on the last girl.

Before there was Wicked, Maguire wrote books for children, specifically The Hamlet Chronicles, a series of humor mysteries with holiday themes. Maguire has always been a devotee of folklore and re-imagining traditional tales. Seven Spider's Spinning merges viking mythology (again in fashion thanks to Mr. Riordan) with a modern day thriller. Infused through all the drama is Maguire's characteristically dry humor. The story is contemporary and will appeal to today's readers. A typical school story with a boy vrs. girls conflict takes a sinister turn with the introduction of the deadly spiders and the mystery of the townspeople figuring out their whereabouts. Because the book is over twenty years old, I was expecting it to be dated. It wasn't. There is lack of technology, but that is not missed. The book feels like it could have been written today. Seven Spiders Spinning is short and sprinkled with block print illustrations, making it appear to be for a younger audience than it is. The vocabulary is rich and the reading level is high. This story would be a great choice for older children who don't think they like to read or younger readers who read above their grade level and need a challenge. It would also make an excellent classroom read aloud for something a little creepy and Halloween related, not too long, and enriching as well as entertaining.

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