Spidernaut: Arabella, the Spider in Space

Albert Whitman. (Animalographies). Oct. 2021. 32p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780807504413.
K-Gr 3–Told from the point of view of Arabella, one of two spiders to travel to the International Space Station in 1973, this delightful book introduces readers to a little-known experiment that will engage space lovers and arachnid fans alike. It is filled with facts about orb-weavers, who eat their protein-packed webs before they start spinning a new one, as well as information about Skylab and some of the experiments scientists have conducted in space over the years. The connection to contemporary students is subtly woven throughout the book. The first mission to see if spiders could spin a web in space was prompted by the question of a high school student named Judith Miles, and subsequent missions included partnerships with students to observe spiders in their classroom and compare against the observations of the astronauts, as well as a student-designed experiment that sent a jumping spider into space. The unsurprising death of Arabella and Anita, her spidernaut partner, while still in space is glossed over in the text, but is mentioned in the list of “Spider Facts” at the end of the book. Rich, textured illustrations that fill the pages with blues and golds perfectly complement the narrative. The multiple double-page spreads help give the impression of the expanse of outer space, particularly for one tiny spider.
VERDICT Purchase for nonfiction collections about space exploration.

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