Gina Newton and Nandina Vines – <em>Spider Wars </em>

Wilkinson Publishing Pty Ltd, Australia, 2024
Design Alicia Freile, Tango Media
Illustrations and information section designed by Nandina Vines

The natural world conflict of Spider Wars, a picture book by Gina Newton and Nandina Vines is a story of territorial dispute between the Wolf Spiders and the Peacock Spiders. The author and illustrator also tell a kind of Romeo and Juliet tale of star-crossed lovers.

Gina Newton speaks to Barbie about Spider Wars

The Wolf Spiders and the Peacock spiders both fancy Middle Ground Hill and go into battle for domination of this territory. The Wolf army is decked out in old world metal armour and the Peacocks brandish laser swords and wave their hypnotic, colourful abdomens about in scenes worthy of block buster inter-galactic war stories.

Meanwhile Wolf Mother has fallen head over heels in love with a Peacock named Sparklemuffin. In an effort to be together, against the wishes of their own kind, they elope – Wolf makes it to Peacock territory and brings back his sweetheart. But in the way of the world, it transpires that the grass is not always greener on the other side – some environments are simply more suitable for one species or the other. A truce is declared.

If only real-world conflicts could be so easily and rationally solved! A daring writerly twist will have readers either giggling or gasping in horror, but we are reminded that this is Nature’s way at work.

A useful and informative fact section at the back of the fiction will delight those children who hunger for non-fiction books. This one affords both worlds for our young citizen scientists.

Nandina’s drama-filled illustrations remind us of the popular culture of super-hero and futuristic movies, net series and animations, portraying an imagined world where mediaeval standards are hoisted for battle but are juxtaposed with modernity.

The metaphor is clear. Indeed the real world speaks powerfully in this book, not just on moral issues but on ones of environmental protection and conservation. The importance of spiders to us all is the potent message of this author-illustrator team.

The book is a welcome addition to the picture book genre. It is original in its thinking and subject matter and allows its readers to think differently about spiders, creatures who are so often feared and maligned. And herein is another metaphor for good living. There is no doubt that a book sympathetic to spiders gives readers a fresh way to look at the world.

Thank you to Wilkinson Publishing  for my review copy and to Gina for chatting with me about spiders and life.