Sarah Jane Hinder
Wombat Books, 2015
32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
No one notices let alone appreciates the beauty that Spider Iggy tries to bring to the grim grey city as he spins his web in intricate designs each day. No one wants to be friends with him and life is unhappy. He dreams of a place filled with colour and light and other spiders who will like him. And then one day on the breeze he hears the words, “Be brave” and he is inspired to change things. And even though on his journey to find a new life he is met by setbacks like the man with the broom and the lady with the windscreen wipers and even the birds with their fast, ferocious and fierce beaks he finds the obstacles are actually opportunities that take him forward to his destination. “Be brave” echoes in his head and from deep within he finds the courage to keep going. And then he meets Bert…
Every one of us could empathise with Spider Iggy as there have been or will be times in our lives when we need to dig ourselves out of a rut and find the wherewithal to go forward – whether it’s towards friendship and love, conquering a fear or facing the unknown. We can draw from his spirit of determination, resilience and persistence and make obstacles into opportunities. Young children will also identify with him as not only is every day a new adventure to be negotiated safely but they are also small, helpless and powerless and somewhat at the mercy of others in their world. They also don’t have the worldly wisdom of adults so they need to dig deep within themselves to overcome.
The story also portrays spiders in a new light – both the man with the broom and the lady with the windscreen wipers respond to Iggy based on their personal prejudices of fear and disgust about spiders, opening up another line of discussion. While Spider Iggy’s plight will not convince me that things with more than four legs have a place in my life, nevertheless I’d be willing to consider their place in the world. Teaching notes offer a range of suggestions to explore these concepts more deeply including links to other titles and websites that could be used as a gateway to information literacy for littlies. Should Little Miss Muffet have been so frightened?
This is a story to support any child who has felt on the outer – it would not have surprised me if the author had trod tender ground and allowed Iggy and Bert to share something special – and to encourage them to keep looking because they will find that place they belong. Sarah Jane Hinder’s illustrations are bright and capture the text in a way that portrays Iggy’s emotional and physical journeys perfectly while keeping the mood light so that for those who just like the surface story are well entertained.