A Spider's Life
written by Ellen Lawrence
2012 (Bearport Publishing)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher
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One of the great things about reading a spider book is that you can study your subject firsthand while you are reading the book. I like reading about kangaroos and lions, but chances are I won't be seeing them in my backyard but I have plenty of spiders available for observation. Since spring officially arrives this week (we had winter for about 1 day in my part of the world), spiders will start showing up all over the place. Combine this observation opportunities with a good book like A Spider's Life and you have a classroom of budding scientists. One of the nice things about this book is that it is written from a young person's point of view. This provides a model for young writers to follow. On the left side of each two page spread is a chronological narrative entry featuring an aspect of the life of the featured jumping spiders. For example, at age ten weeks our spider splits out of his exoskeleton to make room for a bigger one. The right side of the spread has a large photograph complete with labels. A combination of "fast facts" and questions are included as inserts in these spreads. The big photograph of a jumping spider attacking a fly will be particularly popular. The back matter includes a jumping activity where students learn that jumping spiders can leap up to 50 times their body lengths. I also like the vocabulary section where photographs are attached to each definition.
When our teachers present a unit, they make sure that plenty of books are available for students to peruse during their independent reading time. A Spider's Life would be great for the spider or life cycle units. It would also be a good fit as a daily nonfiction read aloud. You could read one or two entries a day as a complement to your fiction read aloud books. When your students are creating their nonfiction text feature books, you could show this book as a model for how students can create inserts and labels. There are plenty of possible uses for A Spider's Life.