A Huntsman Spider in my House – Book Review

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We love books in our house. They are precious gifts to be cherished and loved forever. So when I was offered the opportunity to review a new children’s book for my blog it took me all of 0.35 seconds to say yes.

A Huntsman Spider in my House
Written by – Michelle K. Ray
Illustrated by – Sylvie Ashford

I have to confess I’m not a fan of spiders, or any other creatures that have wiggly legs and that scuttling behaviour that makes me go all prickly. But I am super-keen not to pass my own issues onto my kids and so am very careful to control my response to bugs when confronted with them. Where I fall short is in actively promoting a happy and lively interest in them and that’s a shame, especially for my little boy, who seems very inquisitive where small creatures are concerned.

A Huntsman Spider in my House addresses all of these issues perfectly. It is a delightful and charming tale of a Huntsman spider who lives in the house of a young girl. She is afraid of the spider, and the story follows her beautifully simplistic childlike thought process as she explores her feelings about it, and the ways in which the spider could be dealt with.

The story manages to deliver a valuable lesson on treating all such creatures with respect, without falling into the trap of being preachy. It leaves you with a deep sense of satisfaction, and provides a practical fear-resolution solution to which kids of all ages can relate.

My six-year-old daughter was able to read the book to me, and my three-year-old son listened attentively – the simple rhyming rhythm of the text creates a natural flow for the story, which is beautifully illustrated with images that are rich in colour and engaging in their reinforcement of the story.

Many children’s books on spiders seek to down-play the scary-spider imagery with caricatured animations that detract from the real creature features. Not so in this book. Although he has a friendly face the spider is depicted as big and brown and hairy – just like a real Huntsman Spider. When I first saw the cover I had to suppress an involuntary shudder, but the more I read this book the more I feel comfortable around the images. My kids had no such preconceptions (my efforts at concealing my own spider-fear issues are thankfully paying off!). My son actively enjoyed touching the pictures of the spider on each page. It was as if he found them reassuring.

And that’s the point. This book isn’t just about what you can do if you find a spider in your house. It’s about raising awareness about them, demystifying them, and dispelling common myths. I particularly like how, at the end of the book, there is a section of facts about the Huntsman spider, and website links where the curious can find out more. One final lovely touch is a colouring page that invites children to adorn their very own Huntsman spider picture in whatever colours they choose.

We don’t have Huntsman spiders where I live (in France) but some pretty fierce-looking House spiders tramp in and out each Autumn and Spring. Just last night I found one resting on the wall above my bed. It’s always been our habit to simply evict spiders who have taken up residence a little too close for comfort, but as I watched my husband capture the not-so-little chap in a glass and wander up the field in the moonlight to release him I thought about this book, and felt content that its tale may cause even one person to pause for thought before they mindlessly kill a spider they find in their home.

The book is the first in an intended series entitled ‘Little Aussie Critters’. If the rest of the stories are as well presented as this then they will make a valuable addition to any bookshelf.

A Huntsman Spider in my House is widely available, via Amazon and the like, in both hard copy and e-book format.
ISBN – 978-1-61448-842-2

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Angry Birds and Flying Cornflakes

© Scott Bauer, USDA ARS, via Wikimedia Commons

© Scott Bauer, USDA ARS, via Wikimedia Commons

An air of evening calm settled over the charming family campsite we were staying at. It was 9pm. Crickets chirped, Cicadas chattered, and Children chuckled their way from toilet-block teeth-brushing into snuggly sleeping bags.

And then. The foghorn sounded. Just as the children were drifting off to sleep …

‘Baptiste!!! Viens-la! Dépêche-toi!’

Which roughly translates from French as ‘Baptiste! Come here! Hurry up!’ It was the first outburst of many in a verbal tirade that lasted twelve minutes. It took place at the play area – just the other side of the hedge from our camping pitch, and about nine metres as the crow flies from the children’s tent. Mercifully the wee ones were so tired from their outdoor day that I could have detonated a kilo of explosives in the tent and they would not have stirred.

But still.

Such disturbance of the peace was surely unwarranted? Not to mention unnecessary. I’ve no idea who Baptiste was, but the poor lad’s only crime seemed to have been playing out and having fun in the designated play area. When Mum had decided it was time for him to return to the bosom of his tent she fired off a machine-gun burst of linguistic abuse that prompted a similar response from her harassed offspring before he reluctantly (and who can blame him?) unpeeled himself from the climbing frame and shuffled, sloth-like back to his canvas abode.

As peace descended once more I sipped my wine and thought what a perfect example this little episode was of the way kids reflect the manner in which we communicate with them. A purposeful, calm approach, sans yelling, would almost certainly have kept the whole interaction on a more relaxed level. Baptiste would doubtless have attempted to negotiate a little extra time at play – it’s what kids do. It’s the parent’s job to manage that. All that shouting achieved was to make both parent and child stressed, and to unsettle the lives of the 70 other individuals in the immediate vicinity.

It’s not always easy to keep your cool with kids. They have a knack for pressing all your most sensitive buttons, and seem to relish winding you up and setting you off to paddle furiously like a bath time turtle, before laughing in your face at the absurdity of it all.

Little tykes.

But an air of calm in the family can only be cultivated if Mum and Dad lead by example.  So next morning, when Joe inadvertently stood on his bowl of cornflakes, catapulting milk and soggy orange shapes all over his Duplo, the cool-box and the camping stove I didn’t shout. I suppressed the feeling of mass irritation that welled in my chest and molded it into something resembling mirth. With a smidgen of careful counselling on the avoidance of future cereal flinging thrown in for good measure.

Joe looked both sorry and relieved, and gave me a big squidgy hug before helping me clean up. I smiled as I silently banished my inner Angry-Bird back to her nest.

 

 

 

Borrowed Time

© Jorge Barrios (Own Work), via Wikimedia Commons

© Jorge Barrios (Own Work), via Wikimedia Commons

My little girl stayed up late last night.  While I pottered in the kitchen making a late dinner, she sat at the kitchen table, playing.  At 9pm she was due to go to bed.  I looked across and was about to usher her gently upstairs, when the sounds of her game arrested me.

She was playing with Lego.  Girly Lego, all pinks and purples, and jewel-like door knobs.  She had created a little house and garden, and had entered a world of complete fantasy with a handful of little Lego girls.  She played for fully 45 minutes, totally lost, and making the most adorable voice changes for each character.  I was entranced.

At 5 years old she has just started to get the idea that impeccable behaviour and a low profile can reap the benefit of a later bedtime.  I’m sure this was part of the story, yet there was something else too.  She was playing like she was on borrowed time.  As indeed she was, the Sword of Bedtime hanging perilously over her sweet head.  This ever-present possibility of her game being arrested made her play with a greater enthusiasm and intensity.  The game became more than just a fun thing to do.  It was a means to an end, and charged with excitement as a result.

It made me reflect on how I play with the children.

I’m usually busy (who isn’t!), and playtime is all too often something that is fitted in around other daily obligations.  As I stack blocks, play Princesses or build a den with them I’m having fun, but half my mind is often elsewhere, or thinking about how the mess being created is going to take ages to tidy up.  I feel like I’m short-changing them, and myself.  That’s not a comfortable acknowledgement.

Hmm, what to do?  Then it hit me.

Simple.  

Play like I’m on borrowed time too.  

They grow so fast, one day I’ll realise they don’t really want to play anymore at all.  My new resolution is to leave my adult mind at the door when I enter the play-zone, and access that excitement that comes from truly losing yourself in a game.