Book reviews by Patricia Richwine, Ph.D.

harrytarantulaAn Interview with Harry the Tarantula
Author:  Leigh Ann Tyson (2003)
Illustrator:  Henrik Drescher
Publisher:  National Geographic
32 pages
ISBN 0-7922-5122-9

Katy Did, the talk-show host on KBUG radio, does an “up close and personal” interview with Harry the Tarantula in this picture book which might be classified as faction, a combination of fact and fiction.  In question and answer format, the habits and behaviors of tarantula spiders are presented.  To the reader’s relief, one finds that a tarantula spider’s venom couldn’t do much harm to a human and that the tarantula uses it tiny barbed hairs to ward off enemies.  The cartoon-like illustrations accurately represent the species with their eight eyes and eight legs. The book includes facts about tarantulas in the back pages.  For basic information about tarantulas or for an interview format writing model, this book is an excellent addition for any elementary library or science classroom.

After reading An Interview with Harry the Tarantula, I wanted to know more about these often-feared spiders so I went in search of other books about tarantulas that might be appropriate for children and young adults.

tarscientistThe Tarantula Scientist
Author:  Sy Montgomery (2004)
Photographs by:  Nic Bishop
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
80 pages
ISBN 0-618-14799-3

This 2005 Robert F. Sibert award winning informational honor book is part of the series Scientists in the Field.  It is about Sam Marshall an arachnologist and tarantula spider specialist from Hiram, Ohio.  Marshall’s spider laboratory contains close to 500 live tarantulas and Marshall, who has learned that tarantulas prefer not to be handled, has never been bitten by one of his specimens.  Marshall also travels to the rainforests of French Guiana to study these biggest and hairiest spiders on Earth the largest of which, the Goliath, can have a 12-inch leg span.  The photographs in the book highlight the beauty of various species such as the pinktoe tarantula.  In the biographical information about Marshall, the reader finds that his wife is an arachnologist, too. Included in the statistics about tarantulas is that there are 30 species of tarantulas in the United States and that a tarantula might live 30 years in captivity.  Definitions, research background, a bibliography, web sites, and hints and cautions about purchasing a tarantula are also presented in this book.

Who would want to purchase a tarantula for a pet?  And, how would you go about doing so?  My questions led me to a book by Sam Marshall, the tarantula scientist himself.

petmanualTarantulas and other Arachnids: A Complete Pet Owners Manual
Author and Photographer:  Samuel D. Marshall (2001)
Illustrator:  Laura Barghusen
Publisher:  Barrons
ISBN 0-7641-1463-8

This pet owners guide gives all the information you might need to purchase and care for a tarantula spider.  It includes sources of tarantulas as well as contacts for needed supplies such as insects for feed.  All the basics you need to know about breeding, handling, feeding, and caring for tarantulas is addressed here.  There are even instructions on how to pack a tarantula for travel.  The section on tarantulas and the law and information about the US Fish and Wildlife Services will be helpful for first-time tarantula owners.

Pat Richwine is the Co-Children’s Literature Consultant for Clearing. She is a former university associate professor and is interested in integrating literacy, mathematics, and science.