cover image Spider Sparrow

Spider Sparrow

Dick King-Smith. Crown Publishers, $16.95 (176pp) ISBN 978-0-517-80043-0

With pitch-perfect prose, King-Smith unwinds a tale of a baby abandoned in a lambing pen and adopted by a childless shepherd and his wife. From early on, it's clear that Spider is not normal; his nickname refers to the peculiar gait of his early childhood, and he is slow to develop verbal skills. But although some ostracize him and call him ""simple,"" his parents cherish Spider, and he grows into a young man whose gifts are no less valuable for being different. Spider can mimic the sound of any bird or animal, and his affinity with creatures both wild and tame leads him into a number of quiet adventures as well as his calling as ""crowstarver"" (one whose job it is to scare off crows from newly planted fields) at Outoverdown Farm. Blessed with a deep capacity for happiness, Spider is content with his life, and the bittersweet ending is no less wrenching for its inevitability. King-Smith plants the lilting text firmly in the English countryside of WWII, and his folksy characters' conversations brim with authenticity, heightened by occasional bursts of broad country dialect (""Wass think of thik baby of Kath Sparrow's then?""). Poignant and wise, this deeply moving tale is not to be missed. Ages 9-12. (Jan.)