School Library Journal Review of Silk and Venom

Greta Binford is a zoologist and spider specialist with a particular passion for the Loxosceles branch of the spider family, which is more commonly known as the brown recluse. Readers travel with her to the Dominican Republic as she and her associates search for these elusive, venomous spiders under open market stalls and around abandoned buildings. She is attempting to use the DNA of these creatures to trace their early origins. Lasky also describes Binford’s research lab where she milks spiders for their venom and shares quite a bit of information about a wide variety of fascinating spiders. Lasky does an excellent job of drawing readers into the spider world, balancing fact with action and intrigue. Excellent-quality full-color photographs of all kinds of spiders, their webs, and habitats appear on nearly every spread. The combination of beauty and deadliness is both compelling and vaguely repellent, which makes for a winning recipe for young readers. A photo glossary of all the spiders mentioned is enormously helpful, as is a source list of books and websites. Display or booktalk this with Sy Montgomery’s The Tarantula Scientist (Houghton, 2004), Nic Bishop’s Spiders (Scholastic, 2007), and Seymour Simon’s Spiders (HarperCollins, 2003) for a creepy, crawly extravaganza.

–Jody Kopple, Shady Hill School, Cambridge, MA

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