and Living with Nature
story of a young family, the birth of their first child, and their sharing
the seasons with a garden spider.
journey through the cycles of life, as a young mother introduces
her daughter to the life a spider and the wonders of nature. The connections
of ecology with a home and garden grows as the story progresses.
This story reveals the exceptional magic in the everyday world
and how it can touch our lives.
"My husband came to look" " Come see !" I called.
" Then I held my baby up to see," " The mother spider's spirit continued on."
of Once I Knew A Spider
pregnant woman observes an ordinary orb-weaver spider in her window and
comes to respect the spider as she awaits the birth of her child. This
spider survives the winter (which most orb-weavers do not), and the new
mother introduces her baby to the spider, giving readers the wonderful
message that this child will always be exposed to the workings of the
natural world. Cassels' gouache paintings, set in the Southwest, reveal
nature's magic in the closeup shots of the spider at work; endpapers show
newly hatched spiders floating on strands of silk. Like Charlotte's
Web ( a logical next reading choice) this special book goes far
in debunking the myth of the scary spider. Author's note appended."
"Dewey spins a quiet tale describing the unusually long life of a
particular orb spider that lays her eggs in the window of an adobe house.
An expectant mother observes the spider during the last months of her
pregnancy, and in first-person narrative, she compares her time of waiting
and care for her newborn daughter with the mother spider's behavior. The
spider survives through an extra winter and finally dies in the spring
shortly after her sac opens, releasing 'a cloud of spiderlings drifting
on the breeze.' Because 'her young grew up and built egg sacs of their
own,' the narrator and her husband and daughter are reminded of the long-lived
spider whenever they see orb weavers at work. Cassels provides competent
close-up illustrations of the spider, tender views of the mother and baby,
and the effective repeated device of the spider's home in an arched window.
The spider life cycle is commonly studied in the early elementary grades,
and this examination of an orb spider's life cycle with detailed illustrations
of each stage will serve for related literature as well as for scientific
reference. An author's note provides an additional page of facts about
spiders and their behavior." — Kirkus Reviews
"An unlikely bond—between a woman pregnant with her first child and
an orb weaver spider that spins a web and egg sac in the arched window
of the woman's adobe-style home—forms in Dewey's eloquent meditation on
the cycle of life. The muted tones of Cassel
interiors and the detailed paintings of the spider's behavior complement
the calm, contemplative tone of the journal-like text. A triptych of window
views, for instance, chronicles the spider weaving her web; another trio
of vignettes shows the spider mounting a protective outer covering for
her eggs. 'You've done a wonderful job,' the woman tells the yellow-and-black
spider upon the completion of its eggs' shelter, as she caresses her own
bulging stomach. The woman's connection to the spider deepens after the
birth of her child ('I held the baby up...so the spider might have a good
look'), and she watches as the spider and sac tenaciously survive the
winter in 'a tiny snow cave.' The ending (which may remind some youngsters
of Charlotte's Web ) is, of course, bittersweet—but the spider
leaves behind a web-spinning brood. Dewey never anthropomorphizes the
arachnid, yet the parallel between two mothers yields a surprising poignancy.
compositions similarly connect their shared experience—even the baby's
spring-green shirt echoes the color of the foliage behind the web."
— Publishers Weekly
"A pregnant woman watches as a spider spins her web in a window in
her house. As time goes by and the baby is born and grows bigger, the
common orb weaver lays eggs, protects them in an egg case, and eventually
dies. The juxtaposition of the woman's pregnancy, the passage of seasons,
and the insect's life cycle provides a gentle yet profound message of
renewal and the continuing rhythm of life. Told from the woman's point
of view, the text is more like an adult relating an event to a child than
a story. It provides factual information and, despite its fictional framework,
remains objective and never anthropomorphic in its treatment of the spider.
Cassels's gouache illustrations are best when providing close ups of the
creature and her web....[T]he spider and her web-wrapped victims are eye-catching
and realistic. This would be a fine choice for elementary science classes."
— School Library Journal