The Spider and the Fly

By: Mary Howitt Illustrated By: Tony DiTerlizzi

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In this book, based off of a poem written by Mary Howitt, a small fly enters the parlor of a very cunning spider. All throughout the book the spider spends his time trying to convince the small fly to remain with him in his home. The fly knows of the things that occur in the spiders’ home, but yet seems to be impressed by the spiders’ flattery. The fly leaves the home only to be drawn back in when the spider calls out and talks about the beauty the fly possesses. The fly makes the mistake of trusting the spider and enters his home for the last time.

Literary Elements

The ending of the story contains a very clear message, one that is actually written out. The message stated is, “And now, dear little children, who may this story read. To idle, silly, flattering words I pray you ne’er give heed.” The message this book contains is one that is important for children to understand. It is important for children to understand that there will be people in the world who try to persuade them using clever tricks, but they must trust their instincts to evade being “trapped.” In a small summary written by Scholastic, the theme of the book is covered. The theme that they discovered is very similar to the one I found from the text. The theme is presented through the character of the spider, and how he is very cunning and will say what he needs to to get what he wants. The dark setting also allows readers to see that the theme hidden in the pictures is one that is darker than most.

Physical Features

At the end of the story there is a letter from the spider of the book that explains the theme in greater depth. This being present in the book is a creative way to reveal the theme and add another layer to the book. The book mostly has two page illustration spreads but there are some pages with just one page. The illustrator, in adding to the creativity of the page, writes the words as if they are in spider webs. The presence of the spider webs helps build the creepy feelings one gets when reading the book. Along with the spider webs, the pages with no pictures has a frame that has dead bugs along the edges. In placing these images there the illustrator is also foreshadowing the ending of the book. Along with these elements, DiTerlizzi draws ghost figures of bugs that have been trapped by the spider already. This is shown in the picture under Visual Elements. Although this book is creepy and has a very dark atmosphere, children will enjoy it because of the illustrations and the great theme that comes out of the book.

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Visual Elements

The main color used by the illustrator in this book is black, many different shades of black fill all the pages. This color is used to represent and foreshadow the darkness and the untimely death that is shown in the book. Many vertical lines in the book are used to show the height of certain objects. Objects that to a regular human would look tiny, but to these characters they seem like massive structures. Just as the picture below shows, the legs of the spider are drawn as large lines, while the fly remains very small. This demonstrates the difference in size between the characters. The second picture shows the spiders house, and with the way the lines are drawn it appears to be enormous. Along with lines, the lighting in the book also helps portray the story. All the lighting around the fly is always brighter than the rest of the surrounding because she has yet to be corrupted, or taken by the spider. Once the small fly is taken by the spider the colors around her begin to grow darker. The way to color, lines, and lighting are represented it moves the story along. The story begins as less frightening but as the book continues the pages seem to become more dark and depressing.
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Artistic Style

I believe these images are very surreal as they are drawn with a lot of detail. The spider is a very intense character and it builds the intensity of the story. It creates a darkness that is overly creepy for the readers. This intense feeling that the reader gets is one of the reasons why this book is so effective. Most of these images are all things that we know exist, spiders, flies and other insects. But the way the illustrator adds all of the extra detail makes these characters so surreal. Almost as if they are creatures we have never seen before. The fly is also overly detailed which adds to her innocent nature.

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Artistic Media

In an interview with the illustrator himself, DiTerlizzi discusses his own artistic style and how he uses certain elements to create his work. DiTerlizzi says he does a lot of pen and ink work as well as utilizing Photoshop to help clean up his sketches. He says that a lot of The Spider and the Fly was one of the first books that he started to use Photoshop for. I think that in putting so much detail into his work, the illustrator really gives the readers a connection to the text. The authors ability to create such animated, detailed pictures really give the book life.

Elements of Illustration

Many of the pages are very continuous, with each flip of the page the story continues with no break. The pictures are full page on each of the pages with illustrations. Those pages without full page illustrations have a frame that was carefully illustrated to make sure it adds to the creepy feeling the book portrays. All of these elements add to the theme, which is a very dark and advanced theme for children. The illustrator also does a great job moving from night to day and then back to night again in the story. He does this by having a picture of the fly standing in sunlight after she spent the first night at the spiders home. After this illustration the story continues and keeps on getting darker.
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Interplay of Text and Illustrations

Both the illustrations by Toni DiTerlizzi, and the poem by Mary Howitt, create such an amazing story when placed together in the same book. The text with the illustrations gives the readers a better sense of the theme. It seems as if they are experiencing all the events taking place because of the way the illustrations are drawn and placed in the book. The illustrations have great connection to the text and each image follows the text perfectly. The interplay between the text and illustration is one of the reasons why the theme is understood by readers.


To wrap up, the book The Spider and the Fly is a great read for all children. It presents a very important theme and includes illustrations that are detailed and very surreal. The illustrator makes great choices when it come to color, lines, and lighting in the book. All of his choices are very effective in helping the reader understand the theme and the book as a whole.
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