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We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Book Review

Spider Boy by Ralph Fletcher has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Seventh-grader Bobby Ballenger and his family have just moved from Illinois to New Paltz, New York. Bobby misses his old friends and feels his tarantula, Thelma, is all he has left. But Thelma isn’t eating, and Bobby worries about her. As a spider enthusiast and researcher, he knows it’s not unheard of for tarantulas to go for long periods without eating. Still, it’s just one more unsettling aspect of his new life in New York.

Bobby finds himself making up lies when teachers and classmates ask about his dad’s occupation. After he writes a paper about his dad’s silk factory, bully Chick Hall and his friends dub Bobby “Spider Boy.” Teachers discover Bobby’s lies and call in his parents. Mom and Dad are understanding, recognizing the lies stem from his struggles to adapt to his new environment. They still make him tell everyone the truth.

Bobby meets a chess-loving boy named Butch Fostick, with whom he sometimes eats lunch. He’s also paired with another new student, Lucky Prescott, to do a class project. Lucky comes from Atlanta. Her father is the new anchorman on the TV news. She’s a beautiful, African-American runner, and she invites Bobby to her house to use her dad’s telescope several times.

Lucky is intrigued by Bobby’s knowledge of spiders. One of Bobby’s teachers invites him to work in the science lab taking care of animals. Dad brings home a second tarantula that a co-worker gave him at a discounted price. The new spider, Monk, is much more rare and dangerous than Thelma, and Bobby enjoys the creature’s energy. At his teacher’s request, he brings Monk to the lab for a while. Lucky and Bobby’s friendship grows, and she even kisses him one night.

Bobby continues to struggle with Chick’s teasing. When Bobby sees Chick cheating on a test, he feels compelled to report it. Chick beats up on Bobby and further retaliates by putting Monk in a lab freezer, killing him. Chick and his father are called into the office, and teachers and administrators reveal Chick’s wrongdoings to Mr. Hall. Chick’s dad seems more annoyed than sorry, but he does give Bobby’s dad money to replace Monk. Bobby struggles to forgive Chick and grieves the loss of his tarantula.

Life improves for Bobby when Thelma molts and begins eating again. Bobby decides to play football, something he’s always loved, even if it means he’ll have to spend time with Chick. He gets a new, bigger baboon tarantula and enjoys getting to know Butch, Lucky and even his own family better. He discovers he finally feels at home in New York.

Christian Beliefs


Other Belief Systems

Chick’s brother, a champion swimmer, says there is a “zen” to swimming.

Authority Roles

Bobby’s parents support his interest in spiders. They deal with him patiently but firmly when they learn he’s been lying to his teachers. Chick’s father seems more annoyed than remorseful to hear his son has bullied Bobby and killed his spider. Bobby’s teachers encourage his interests and respect him for admitting Chick cheated.


The Lord’s name is used in vain a few times. Butt, d--n and suck each appear once.


Lucky kisses Bobby.

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

You can request a review of a title you can't find at reviewrequests@family.org.

Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

9 to 14


Ralph Fletcher






Record Label



Sandpiper, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company


On Video

Year Published





We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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