Spider McDrew by Alan Durant has been another one of my seven year old’s reading books this term. It is from the Roaring Good Reads series by Harper Collins, specifically designed for use in schools. There are three or four Spider McDrew books available.
Spider McDrew was going to be another Horrid Henry spin off, I decided as I read the synopsis; slightly troubled boy, has difficulties at school etc. It turns out I could not have been further from the truth. Spider is a very different beast from Henry. As far as I’m concerned this is no bad thing.
Spider is a gentle, dreamy boy. His mind wanders off in class, he is always several beats behind everyone else. He is constantly in a muddle or in trouble, but not because he is naughty, just because he is not quite on the same wavelength as everyone else. If Spider were a grown up we would say he was a loveable eccentric. Sadly, children have to endure difficult childhoods being ostracised before they can be deemed loveable eccentrics, and Spider is mostly called ‘A hopeless case.’
These three stories show how hard it is to be someone like Spider, and also what is going on in Spider’s head. They show the reality of the trickiness of Spider’s existence, but the joy of the stories are that they ensure that whatever scenario Spider is put in, he always manages to come out on top despite himself. I love the fact that Spider has a supportive, gentle teacher who squashes the class when they get too mean to Spider, and I liked the way the author drew the complicated but loving relationship between Spider and his mum.
In this book, Spider plays football, takes a cow to school and accidentally becomes the star of the school play. The stories are short and easy to read if a child is a fairly competent reader. There are plenty of black and white drawings to break up the text and it is a perfect transitional text for readers aged between seven and ten. It works for both boys and girls.
There is enough humour in the books to make them appeal to children without them being too soft and mushy, and the thoughtful nature of what the author is saying about children who are different will probably be absorbed unwittingly by the children, which is no bad thing.
I liked the fact that these books are specifically aimed at newly confident readers and has been checked so that it is suitable for schools. Finding these kind of books can be tricky sometimes and Harper Collins have done all the work for you with the Roaring Good Reads series. I was particularly pleased by the fact that although they are meant for an academic environment they do not look like ‘reading books’, which makes them much more appealing to children.