The Spider and the Fly - Mary Howitt, illus. Tony DiTerlizzi
This Caldecott-award-winning book pairs the original 1829 poem with DiTerlizzi's fantastic black-and-white illustrations, and it turns out looking a little like a Tim Burton movie. DiTerlizzi was also the guy behind Ted. The spider is a delightfully creepy Rhett Butler-ish figure who does his best to flatter and lure the little flapper fly into his "parlor." The best part is that he didn't change the ending—the moral of the original poem still stands, and the book doesn't try to make it all okay at the end, with the spider and the fly reconciling their differences in order to become better people. I bring this up because there seems to be a tendency to put happy endings on everything, from the old lady who swallowed a fly ("She's fine, of course") to even the eight little monkeys bouncing on the bed ("But nobody said anything about jumping on the couch!"). Sure, if you want to teach your kids that it's all right to swallow large animals and the finer points of seeking legal loopholes, those books are great. But if you'd rather they didn't succumb to flattery and bribes, The Spider and the Fly is a much better choice.

Fed to jonathan's brain | March 20, 2003