cover image The Spider's Web

The Spider's Web

Laura E. Williams, Erica Magnus. Milkweed Editions, $15.95 (150pp) ISBN 978-1-57131-621-9

Williams (Behind the Bedroom Wall) returns to the subject of Nazism and its effect on youths, this time setting her story in modern-day America, juxtaposing the thoughts of a teenage ""skinhead"" against the memories of a former member of the Hitler Youth. Lexi and Mrs. Zeidler first meet after Lexi vandalizes a local synagogue. Lexi is being chased by the police when Mrs. Zeidler (mistaking red spray paint for blood) invites the frightened girl into her house. Seeing Lexi's tattoo of a swastika (""I call it my spider,"" Lexi explained, even though the woman hadn't asked. ""It's my good luck charm ""), Mrs. Zeidler is reminded of her own childhood in Germany during Hitler's reign. Hearing Mrs. Zeidler's stories about World War II and seeing her own younger sister become a member of the ""hate"" group, Lexi comes to recognize how she has mistaken lies for truth. The characters and action are drawn with large, movie-of-the-week-style strokes (e.g., when Lexi tries to run interference for one of her skinhead friend's victims, he knocks Lexi down instead: ""An eerie wail of pain filled the room.... With his face twisted in fury, he looked like he wanted to stomp on her. `Don't ever interfere again!' he stormed at her""). Kids may enjoy the drama, but Williams's heavy-handed approach is more sensationalist than probing. Final artwork not seen by PW. Ages 8-13. (Apr.)