Cover image for Spider Sparrow
Spider Sparrow
King-Smith, Dick.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
First American edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Crown Publishers, 2000.

Physical Description:
163 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
Spider, a baby abandoned on an English farm, grows up to be mentally slower than other children but manifests a remarkable talent for communicating with animals as he comes of age during World War II.
Reading Level:
1100 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 6.1 5.0 35644.

Reading Counts RC 6-8 6.9 10 Quiz: 21527 Guided reading level: NR.
Added Author:

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Juvenile Fiction Central Closed Stacks
X Juvenile Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



Spider Sparrow has always been different from other children. He can't walk like them, he can't talk like them, he can't learn like them. But Spider has a very special gift: He can perfectly imitate the sounds of animals, drawing them to him, soothing them. Spider amazes himself when he uses his gift to hand-feed a fox. He amazes others when he uses it to save a life. And while Spider's world is sometimes difficult, he lives each day with enthusiasm, joy, and courage. With rich, evocative detail, beloved children's book author Dick King-Smith depicts an English farming community before and during World War II and celebrates the mark one special boy makes on its inhabitants.

Author Notes

Dick King-Smith was born on March 27, 1922 in Bitten, Gloucestershire, England. Before becoming a full-time author, he was a farmer and a schoolteacher. He served in the Grenadier Guards during World War II and attended Marlborough College in Wiltshire.

He has written over 100 children's books including The Fox Busters, The Hodgeheg, and The Sheep Pig (aka Babe-The Gallant Pig), which was adapted as the 1995 film Babe. The 1995 TV miniseries The Queen's Nose was also based in one of his books. He was voted Children's Author of the Year at the 1991 British Book Awards. He died on January 4, 2011 at the age of 88.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 3^-5. A foundling damaged in body and brain is brought up with loving care, and earns a place on a Wiltshire farm in this poignant tale from the author of Babe, the Gallant Pig (1985). Unable to trace the baby's mother, childless Tom and Kathie Sparrow adopt the newborn left in a sheep pen, and continue to cherish him even after it becomes plain that he's not developing normally. Living just 16 years before his weak heart gives out, John Joseph, dubbed "Spider" for the four-limbed scramble he used to get about as a child, never loses his awkward gait or learns more than a few words. But he faces life with engaging eagerness, shows an uncommon way with all the wild and domestic animals he ever meets, and proves himself an industrious, dependable worker. As the rest of the world edges up into World War II, King-Smith builds a closed but full world for Spider within Outoverdown Farm's timeless rhythms, a world resonant with natural beauties and pleasures. The author invites readers not to pity Spider, but, like the boy's parents and the farm's aristocratic owners, to respect him for what he is, and to find a place for him in their hearts. --John Peters

Publisher's Weekly Review

With pitch-perfect prose, King-Smith unwinds a tale of a baby abandoned in a lambing pen and adopted by a childless shepherd and his wife. From early on, it's clear that Spider is not normal; his nickname refers to the peculiar gait of his early childhood, and he is slow to develop verbal skills. But although some ostracize him and call him "simple," his parents cherish Spider, and he grows into a young man whose gifts are no less valuable for being different. Spider can mimic the sound of any bird or animal, and his affinity with creatures both wild and tame leads him into a number of quiet adventures as well as his calling as "crowstarver" (one whose job it is to scare off crows from newly planted fields) at Outoverdown Farm. Blessed with a deep capacity for happiness, Spider is content with his life, and the bittersweet ending is no less wrenching for its inevitability. King-Smith plants the lilting text firmly in the English countryside of WWII, and his folksy characters' conversations brim with authenticity, heightened by occasional bursts of broad country dialect ("Wass think of thik baby of Kath Sparrow's then?"). Poignant and wise, this deeply moving tale is not to be missed. Ages 9-12. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 4-6-In this audio version of Dick King-Smith's Spider Sparrow (Crown, 1998), listeners meet Spider, an abandoned baby boy adopted by Tom and Kathie Sparrow after they discover him in their farm's lambing pen one night. As Spider grows up, his adoptive parents realize that he is developmentally slow. In spite of this, Spider possesses an amazing ability to communicate with animals. How the community deals with this "simple" boy and his unique talent makes for an affecting story. Christian Rodska, best known for narrating C.S. Forester's Horatio Hornblower books on tape, really gives life to Spider and his family in his poignant reading. Rodska makes you feel Spider's innocent spirit and dignity of character. The reading is clear and well paced. The only caveat is that this Dick King-Smith story is not as kid-friendly as his other titles. Other than Spider, all the characters in the story are adults, and Spider dies at the end of the book from a congenital heart defect.-Lori Craft, Downers Grove Public Library, IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.