October 1, 2002 in Books

The Spider & The Fly

“DiTerlizzi has spun a visual treat that young sophisticates and adults alike will enjoy” – Publisher’s Weekly

“The setting is a dustily gothic attic in which DiTerlizzi’s “camera” never rests, zooming in, out, up, and down in a dazzling series of perspectives as a top-hatted and bespatted spider romances a naïve flapper fly” – Kirkus

“Will you walk into my parlor, said the Spider to the Fly…”is easily one of the most recognized and quoted first lines in all of English verse. But do you have any idea how the age-old tale of the Spider and the Fly ends? Join celebrated artist Tony DiTerlizzi as he – drawing inspiration from one of his loves, the classic Hollywood horror movies of the 1920s and 1930s – shines a cinematic spotlight on Mary Howitt’s warning, written to her own children about those who use sweet words to hide their not-so-sweet intentions.


School Library Journal
☆ Grade 1-6–Most people are familiar with Howitt’s poem, but DiTerlizzi’s art raises this hackneyed classic to a new level. Rendered in black-and-white gouache and pencil, then reproduced in silver-and-black duotone, the paintings have a spooky quality perfectly suited to retelling this melancholy tale. Ms. Fly, with her whimsical flower umbrella and Roaring ’20s attire, captures the flavor of an old-time Hollywood heroine. Her nemesis, seated on his Victorian chair, is dressed like a pasha in silk robe and slippers (six, of course) or resplendent in tails, top hat, and spats; he is clearly a dastardly fiend cloaked in splendid apparel to dazzle his victim. Wispy, transparent, ghostly shapes haunt the eerie mansion; the white print on the black pages stands out against the shadows creeping across each spread. All of these elements foreshadow the fly’s untimely demise. With its tragic ending, heavy moralizing, and sophisticated artwork, this book will appeal to older children as well as to adult fans of old horror movies. This title is worth purchasing for its valuable artwork alone. Laurie Edwards, West Shore School District, Camp Hill, PA

The New York Times
February 9, 2003, Sunday
By Sarah Ferrell

Any insect, even one as patently naïve as the heroine of ”The Spider and the Fly,” might think carefully about accepting the famous invitation, ”Won’t you walk into my parlor.” But walk in she does. The parlor is installed in a grand Queen Anne dollhouse; its furnishings include a footstool made of a dead ladybug (you can tell it’s dead, because, in the wonderful black-and-white illustrations, its eyes are little x’s).

The Fly has the air of an innocent just arrived from the country, carrying a valise and a hatbox, as well as a parasol made from a flower. But the Spider—well, the Spider is a model of perfect depravity, lolling and leering in a quilted smoking jacket and fez, his feet propped on that footstool, a copy of ”The Joy of Cooking Bugs” at his elbow. Even the Fly, however, is smart enough to pass on the proffered Hannibal Lecter-like feast of roasted beetle, boiled worms and the odd bits of legs and wings that stick out of covered dishes.

She begins to falter only when praised for her gauzy wings and shown her reflection in a looking glass. So, having once escaped with her life, she stupidly returns for more of the Spider’s blandishments. She should have known better, and we should all pay attention to a final caution: ”And now, dear little children, who may this story read, / To idle, silly, flattering words I pray you ne’er give heed.”

”The Spider and the Fly,” which is a 2003 Caldecott Honor Book, is based on an 1829 cautionary tale by Mary Howitt. Tony DiTerlizzi had the happy inspiration to revive it as an early Hollywood horror movie, dressing the Fly in a fringed flapper dress with a cloche hat and tiny reticule. The closing credits show both Howitt and DiTerlizzi as Victorian silhouettes, with antennas. –Sarah Ferrell


Sweet creatures! Click here to download a “Color-n-Make” MR SPIDER paper puppet!
…and click here to download MS FLY…
…and click here to download the CRICKET GHOST…
…and click here to download the BUTTERFLY GHOST.

Be sure to click here to download SPIDER & FLY Holiday Ornaments (pdf format).

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