This is such an adorable tale about being brave, conservation, overcoming fear and respecting nature.
Emma Read has written an amazing book with super cute not at all scary illustrations by Alex G Griffiths that may even prompt you to consider posting your own #NotScaredOfSpiders reasons.
Milton is a false widow spider who has lived his whole life at 40 Bramley Road in reasonable comfort with his friends Audrey and Ralph. Of course there’s the odd worry of the vacuum cleaner or magazines but in general Mr M the biggest house human is so scared of spiders that the little one Zoe takes care of spider patrol in a humane way.
But one day a news story convinced the community that false widows are deadly and must be eradicated headed by the tenacious Felicity Thrubwell owner of the local extermination business BugKILL.
With insect annihilation spreading through the neighbourhood and a countdown to Mr M’s booking Milton decides he must do something, anything, even ask Zoe for help.
Milton has a great growth arc throughout this novel going from meek and mild to web slinging hero determined to save his species and I love that it shows children you don’t have to be big or powerful to make a change, but you do have to be determined.
Perfectly pitched to youthful humour there are gorgeous little in-jokes such as Professor (Greta) Parker being the Invertebrates expert and reference to Spider-Man pants being a substitute item in the online shopping delivery joyously make you feel like you’re sharing a secret with Emma.
Those who adore the gross things such as the freaky food of Laura Ellen Anderson’s Nocturnia will delight in the delicacies of Milton and his friends such as House mite pâté, Ladybird juice and more.
Why did humans hate spiders so much? What had they ever done but eat flies and mosquitoes? He felt flat like the Brazilian wandering spider. Now there was a spider to scream at. Big and scary and properly venomous. Milton wanted to shout ‘Go and scream at him and leave me alone!’
However seriously there is an excellent moral and theme at heart here of respect for nature and the mutualism or symbiotic relationship between all living things including humans. This is with the hope that like Zoe’s campaign with education and knowledge that we can live in harmony with spiders and especially to manage fear by reducing the ‘peril factor’.
The interdependence of spiders and humans is discussed cleverly from the way spiders share human habitats in exchange for controlling insect populations such as flies, mites etc may be a surprise to many.
Furthermore Read stresses the fact that whilst spiders are by nature venomous no British Spider is deadly to drive home the fact that spiders are pretty great in the UK, a fact I am very happy to see spread.
We have always been pro-spider in our family, never killed one in my life and I have carried on my what my parents did with me and taught the girls to be respectful of these creatures so the messages to down magazines and slippers to be a spider-warrior is one that I would be happy to see spread.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I hope that the girls will also enjoy in time as the ecological messages are wonderful but so is the story of Milton overcoming his fears to be Milton the Mighty.
Milton the Mighty by Emma Read Illustrated by Alex G Griffiths is published by Chicken House.