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

A childless shepherd and his wife adopt a baby abandoned in their lambing pen. In a starred review, PW said, "Poignant and wise, this deeply moving tale is not to be missed." Ages 10-up. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 4-6-King-Smith departs from writing about animal characters to tell the poignant story of John Joseph Sparrow, who as an infant was left in a poor shepherd's pen. Tom, the shepherd, and his wife, Kathie, had always wanted a child and are quick to take the baby in as their own. Before long, they realize the boy is special. At the age of two, his mother nicknames him "Spider" for the peculiar way in which he gets around using his hands and feet. Instead of learning to speak, he mimics the sounds he hears the animals make. Eventually, he develops his own simplistic vocabulary, but his real talent lies in being able to communicate with animals. Later, when World War II erupts and the young men in the village go off to fight, Spider works as a crowstarver. The author takes the boy's simple job of scaring off crows and weaves in vignettes about his encounters with animals, the people who live in his village, and the effects of war. The British dialect throughout gives readers a true sense of place and time. Children will care deeply about Spider and share in his triumphs and tragedies. Small, black-and-white line drawings begin each chapter. A heartwarming story, filled with memorable characters.- Linda L. Plevak, Alamo Area Library System, San Antonio, TX (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.