Science Comics were introduced by First Second in 2016 and have since expanded to cover a huge variety of topics from the human body to meteorology. However, some of their most popular titles continue to be those which introduce the science of various animals, and this latest title features a creator new to Science Comics, Tait Howard, and a wonderful exploration of the worldwide web of spiders.
Each title in this series has a simple framing narrative. In Spiders: Worldwide Webs, it features two kids, Peter and Charlotte, who meet an American house spider, Parasteatoda tepidariorum, or Tepi for short. She’s a scientist and a spider and is excited to introduce the two to the wonderful world of arachnids. With the use of a shrink ray, she gets them down to her size and they set out on an adventure, first to find her child Maxi, who uses they/them pronouns, and then across the world.
As they travel, they learn about a wide variety of spiders, from the orb weavers in their backyard to the fishing spiders in the stream and on to more unusual varieties across the world, finishing up with a helpful encounter with a Goliath bird-eating tarantula. This isn’t just a list of different spiders though; Tepi and her friends show the enthusiastic Charlotte and more wary Peter all the amazing facets of a spider’s life and their abilities. Do you know what spiders and goats have in common? Or how Nikola Tesla relates to spiders? These and more excursions into science are included throughout the book, as well as practical discussions of why people are afraid of spiders and what to do if you get bitten.
Howard’s lively text and clear, carefully explained science are accompanied by humorous cartoons that will appeal to even the most nervous arachnophobe. Tepi is a cheerful bundle of legs and eyes, wrapped in a lab coat, Peter has brown skin, and Charlotte is blonde. The layout is partially composed of narrative, showing the three, later joined by Maxi, exploring the yard, encountering ants and a plethora of spiders, and sailing across the ocean with Tepi’s explanations and lectures interspersed throughout the action. The narrative panels are interrupted by cartoon-style scientific drawings, which show different spiders, their body parts, and other related concepts up close. While the drawings do not have the microscopic detail of photographs, they give a general feeling of the spiders’ body types and markings. And the bolder lines and lack of photographic detail may make this more palatable to those who dislike spiders. There’s also a lot of humor included in the cartoons, from the sinister chuckle of a missing sector orb-weaver to the dark humor of baby spiders eating their mother as she proclaims, “Yes, eat of my flesh that you may live!”
This is another excellent offering from the Science Comics series and will appeal to budding entomologists and scientists of all types. It’s perfect for a school or public library setting, with just the right mix of cartoons, humor, gross science, and information to keep kids reading through every panel.
Spiders: Worldwide Webs
By Tait Howard
First Second, 2021
Publisher Age Rating: Ages 9-13
NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11)