Spiders! Strange and Wonderful
Spiders! is another in a series (subtitle: strange and wonderful), and I've
particularly chosen some animals that people feel are dangerous, or even "bad."
That includes books about bats, sharks, snakes, scorpions, octopuses,
and alligators and crocodiles. Solid factual information about such creatures
can help replace fear with fascination. I like to believe that some readers will
look at spiders in a new way, appreciate them, want to learn more about them,
and maybe have a favorite kind of spider.
My research centered on books and articles in scientific journals and
magazines written by actual spider researchers. This included items from
Science, and Natural History. I also looked through about ten children's books
about spiders, but not for information. Instead, my goal was to look for ways to
make my book different from, and--I hope--better than, titles already published.
Though I did not do it with this book, my research often leads me to contact an
animal expert, to pin down some details. And, of course, I nominated a couple of
spider experts to my editor. She chose one, who found a few items to correct
in both my text and the art. This is a vital step, since I am fully confident I
sometimes get things wrong.
Much of the fun of being a nonfiction writer is the research--turning your curiosity
loose on a subject and making delightful discoveries to share with readers. I
always learn something new. For example, I've long been intrigued with those
wagon wheel-shaped orb webs, and learned more about their builders and
construction. Also, I gained a new appreciation for jumping spiders. Such
faces, such antics!
Fortunately, my parents and other adults in my early life did not teach
me to fear spiders. However, I remember one childhood spider experience
that was really scary. I was walking through a field in late summer, where
the goldenrod and aster plants were taller than me. In this "jungle" I walked
right into the orb web of a black and yellow argiope (called the golden garden
spider). Yikes! It was a stout web and a big spider. For a split second I felt
trapped in the web.
I suppose this experience could have made me a lifelong arachnophobe,
but in school and later in college (and life) I learned more about spiders. So
many of our fears are born in ignorance--and maintained by ignorance. I
urge people who fear spiders to give them a chance. The last two paragraphs
of my book tell of an Australian woman who had nightmares about spiders,
but she cautiously began to observe some through the glass of a kitchen
window. She saw them spinning webs, and catching insects to eat. When a
bird came by and ate every one, she was upset. She was rooting for "her"
My spider book is dedicated to my daughter Rebecca, who as a child
somehow became quite fearful of spiders. But, step by step, by watching
them, learning about them, she has become more spider-friendly. The
dedication concludes: "She sees the best in people, dogs, and cats,
and may someday see the best in spiders."
I hope readers of this book will take a cue from an early sentence:
"Your spider companions just want to go on with their quiet, amazing lives."
I hope they learn that spiders are almost all harmless, incredibly diverse,