The Tarantula Scientist
(Scientists in the Field Series)
Houghton Mifflin, March 2004
“Sam Marshall loved animals, but disliked school—until a college research project on tarantulas made him realize that science is a process, not a set of answers. Montgomery and Bishop team up for another stellar excursion into the world of working scientists. They accompany Marshall on a research trip to the rainforests of French Guiana, and document his enthusiasm for large, hairy ‘spider dinosaurs’ in crisp, detailed photographs and clear, lively prose.
Returning with him to his Hiram College lab, filled with spiders, student researchers, and questions, they show what kind of questions scientists ask about spiders, and how they learn the answers. Montgomery has a gift for scene-setting, describing Marshall’s activities in just enough detail. She deftly weaves clear explanations and comparisons into the main text (‘…their ‘skin’ is called an exoskeleton, because exo—like exit—means ‘outside”) Bishop’s phenomenal photos show spiders mating, shedding their skin, even leaping through the air. It’s enough to make Miss Muffet fall in love.”
—Starred Review, Kirkus
“The pairing that produced The Snake Scientist has returned with another dramatic title that demonstrates the wonders of hands-on science by following a working researcher. This time the featured scientist is arachnologist Sam Marshall, who studies spiders in the jungle of French Guiana as well as in his lab back at his Ohio college, and the featured subject is spiders, especially tarantulas. Readers will bet a fresh view on the possibilities of science even at junior levels of research (Sam’s undergraduates are often discoverers of new traits of behaviors in spiders) and also the differences that can exist between field science and classroom science.
…This would liven up a science curriculum no end, and it might also convince young readers to go beyond the elemental pleasures of ‘Ew, gross’ to the more sophisticated appreciation of ‘Wow, cool.’”
—Starred Review, The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“They’re creepy, they’re crawly and they’re really, really cool. In fact, by the time you finish reading The Tarantula Scientist, Sy Montgomery’s latest book for young readers, the large, fuzzy arachnids don’t seem creepy at all.
‘To see this spider, and see how it lives—there’s nothing quite like it,’ Sam Marshall says in the book. ‘It’s a jewel in a beautiful setting, down here in this forest.’
…The Tarantula Scientist offers an up-close look at creatures most of us known little about, and convinces us to care about them. The book is beautiful, and the tarantulas who creep around each page make it fun. It’s worth paging through it for Nic Bishop’s remarkable photos alone, but you won’t want to miss Montgomery’s enthusiastic text.
The Tarantula Scientist is easy to follow for young people (without being condescending) and best of all it has a great story to tell—one that’s sure to draw you in.”
—Jane Eklund, The Monadnock Ledger