There was a time when I can honestly say I had a "fear" of spiders. Since having children I have learned to face my fears in the hopes I won't transfer them to my kids. My children can develop their own fears, they don't need mine. I may not be afraid of spiders anymore but I do still have a healthy respect for them, and I still find them freaky. So I have to admit it took me a while to begin reading "The Deadlies."
By Kathryn Lasky
Illustrated by Stephen Gilpin
For ages 6 - 9
"The Deadlies" is an "on the road" adventure with a family of misunderstood brown recluse spiders that don't measure up to their species' reputation at all. Misfits struggling to find a place to fit. This tale has a great message and good dialogue, but the plot meanders quite a bit. Rated 2.75 (spiders, bigotry, family relationships, humor)
While theaters are bombarded with previews for the animated adaptation of Lasky’s "Guardians of Ga’Hoole" series, her new book series was quietly placed on bookstore shelves. “The Deadlies” follows a family of brown recluse spiders who seem to be misunderstood, even among spiders. Felix and his family would never think of biting a human and, except for the mother, they are not very reclusive. They even made a theatre cat their god-spider.
Felix, the only boy in the family, is an artist. He loves music and painting. He does not want to hide and highlights the struggle of understanding even within his own family. When he comes out of hiding to conduct with the maestro at the grand symphony hall Felix is discovered and subsequently loses a leg. Fear of the exterminators who have been called in forces the family to move. After a couple moves and run-ins with discriminating spiders the Deadlies head cross-country to the Boston Public Library.
The story is about acceptance and finding a place where you don’t have to hide who you are. A good message to be sure, but it get lost in the meandering “on the road” plot with which even Bob Hope and Bing Crosby would have struggled. The bright and humorous dialogue, especially noted between Felix and his sister, is the story's strongest point.
My nine-year-old has shown no interest in "The Deadlies" and would probably be bored with it quickly, but my six-year-old may enjoy the narrative. I'll be interested to see where Lasky takes the characters from here and if she'll be able to add any pizazz to the premise.