Reviews for Spider Sparrow


Booklist Monthly Selections - #1 January 2000
Gr. 3^-5. A foundling damaged in body and brain is brought up with loving care, and earns a place on a Wiltshire farm in this poignant tale from the author of Babe, the Gallant Pig (1985). Unable to trace the baby's mother, childless Tom and Kathie Sparrow adopt the newborn left in a sheep pen, and continue to cherish him even after it becomes plain that he's not developing normally. Living just 16 years before his weak heart gives out, John Joseph, dubbed "Spider" for the four-limbed scramble he used to get about as a child, never loses his awkward gait or learns more than a few words. But he faces life with engaging eagerness, shows an uncommon way with all the wild and domestic animals he ever meets, and proves himself an industrious, dependable worker. As the rest of the world edges up into World War II, King-Smith builds a closed but full world for Spider within Outoverdown Farm's timeless rhythms, a world resonant with natural beauties and pleasures. The author invites readers not to pity Spider, but, like the boy's parents and the farm's aristocratic owners, to respect him for what he is, and to find a place for him in their hearts. ((Reviewed January 1 & 15, 2000)) Copyright 2000 Booklist Reviews

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2000 Fall
Spider, abandoned at birth and adopted by a shepherd and his wife, doesn't speak or move the way other children do. His mental disabilities keep him out of school, but Spider has remarkable abilities with the animals around his farm home. Though the characters are less real than the setting, details of place and time leave the reader with a strong picture of farm life in World War II England. Glos. Copyright 2000 Horn Book Guide Reviews

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Kirkus Reviews 1999 December #1
To a sweetly affecting story that is something of a departure for him, King-Smith (Charlie Muffin's Miracle Mouse, p. 452, etc.) brings the same remarkable compassion and love for his human characters that he has always shown for his animals. When Tom and Kathie Sparrow, a childless shepherd and his wife, find a baby abandoned in their lambing pen, they raise him as their own. They soon realize that Spider, nicknamed for the strange way he crawls, is mentally disabled, but he has a gift with animals, wild and tame, who are unafraid of him. As Spider grows up before and during WWII, the kind gentleman farmer for whom Tom works finds jobs Spider can do, such as scaring the crows away from the crops and helping gentle the horses. Tom and Kathie worry how Spider will get along when they are gone, but he dies of a congenital heart condition, having lived a short but happy life. The language in this poignant tale has heavy doses of back-country British dialect and farming terminology, which may make it a challenge for the author's usual audience; the extra effort will be rewarded by a lovely vision of a time and place grown distant, but still kept close in the heart. (b&w illustrations, glossary) (Fiction. 9-12) Copyright 1999 Kirkus Reviews

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School Library Journal Reviews 2000 March
Gr 4-6-King-Smith departs from writing about animal characters to tell the poignant story of John Joseph Sparrow, who as an infant was left in a poor shepherd's pen. Tom, the shepherd, and his wife, Kathie, had always wanted a child and are quick to take the baby in as their own. Before long, they realize the boy is special. At the age of two, his mother nicknames him "Spider" for the peculiar way in which he gets around using his hands and feet. Instead of learning to speak, he mimics the sounds he hears the animals make. Eventually, he develops his own simplistic vocabulary, but his real talent lies in being able to communicate with animals. Later, when World War II erupts and the young men in the village go off to fight, Spider works as a crowstarver. The author takes the boy's simple job of scaring off crows and weaves in vignettes about his encounters with animals, the people who live in his village, and the effects of war. The British dialect throughout gives readers a true sense of place and time. Children will care deeply about Spider and share in his triumphs and tragedies. Small, black-and-white line drawings begin each chapter. A heartwarming story, filled with memorable characters.- Linda L. Plevak, Alamo Area Library System, San Antonio, TX Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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