A shivering, low moan invaded the room – a moan not so much heard as felt. Connor stiffened, feeling the sound grow in his chest. He tried to speak, but the moan only intensified as Connor’s cracked voice choked in his throat.
He could just make out the tiny shape of Alf. The spider was standing on a piece of broken jar facing the window, flailing his two front legs. Was it the sudden view of life without glass walls bringing on the strange movements? Or was it something to do with the long, spiky leg, thick as a tree branch, that was now snaking through the gap in the window, and waving, searching about the room?
Connor went rigid. He couldn’t utter a sound.
Connor likes spiders and he likes space science. Now an email conversation with Herman, a NASA scientist, has resulted in a spiders-in-space experiment. The class collects spiders and hands them over to unsmiling NASA officials. One escapes as the officials take the spiders back to the USA before their space flight. Connor takes him home, ‘Alf – the spider who almost became an astronaut’. Connor’s school cred may have risen with the NASA connection, but it takes a nose dive as new student, Wart, decides – none too subtly – that they are great friends. Now Connor is alone in his house, sure he’s being watched. Millie, the old lady next door, is muttering about his pet spider and Herman the knitting NASA scientist is acting strangely.
Spider Lies is a story about spiders and friendship, space and the secrets around it. Connor is the main character but most of the subsidiary characters are given an opportunity to say their piece in their own voice. Connor thinks he’ll enjoy some time alone and is happy when his ‘babysitter’ suddenly becomes unavailable. There are red herrings and power struggles, science facts and science speculation, school bullies and new friends. Jen Banyard keeps the story rollicking along and uses plenty of humour. The chapters are short and there are enough story threads to please any spider. Spider Lies’ viewpoints switch from chapter to chapter – sometimes within chapters – but it is easy to follow. The spider language is fascinating and inventive and may well inspire readers to invent words of their own. Recommended for mid-upper primary readers although it would also have interest for older, less confident readers.
Spider Lies, Jen Banyard
Fremantle Press 2009
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