cover image Felix Takes the Stage

Felix Takes the Stage

Kathryn Lasky, illus. by Stephen Gilpin, Scholastic Press, $15.99 (144p) ISBN 978-0-545-11681-7

Lasky (the Guardians of Ga'Hoole series) launches a new series, the Deadlies, centering on a family of toxic brown recluse spiders who feel misunderstood by humans. Felix, his worrywart mother, and two sisters flee their home in a Los Angeles philharmonic hall after the conductor spies (and wounds) Felix, and they know an exterminator will be summoned ("May Felix molt soon so his leg grows back!" prays Edith). Accompanied by a wise cat, the arachnids relocate to an antique shop, where they encounter spiders of various species and temperaments. Fear of an exterminator prompts another move, and they board a Boston-bound bus to live in a library. Lasky's prose strikes an excellent balance between naturalism and anthropomorphism (Gilpin's spirited cartoon illustrations tend toward the latter). Baseball cap–wearing Felix, an artist at heart, bristles at the necessarily reclusive nature of his species ("Should he be judged by the venom in his fangs?"). If the story meanders a bit as the spiders travel cross-country, readers will find plenty to enjoy in the frequently comic dialogue and well-integrated facts about spiders. Ages 7–9. (May)