⭐⭐⭐⭐ out of 5
This is a weird kinda book... it's not fiction, but at the same time it's not non-fiction either... it's a kind of mix between the two - a fun, thoughtful book presented in a unique way that gets the reader thinking in new, better, more positive ways - great work, Neal!
I'm knocking the star off because of some of the illustrations - they look like they've been downloaded, cut out, pasted onto the page and a drop-shadow added.
I'm arachnaphobic, so seeing all these drawings of spiders sends my anxiety through the roof, but I've literally just learnt that small spiders prefer darker rooms because there is less light and therefore less insects milling about. In the two decades I've been living here I've seen maybe 3 or 4 big, strong spiders in total, but there are more fragile spiders, especially during the darker months, so does that mean that we've got the level of light in all our rooms just about right so that I don't come into contact with the 8-legged creatures?
The comparisons are good and well-thought-out that make you consider different situations and would get an older child thinking more outside the box than maybe they did before. I'm thinking that either some of the word choices need to be more considered for Middle-Graders or the language in general needs to be more mature for teens.
The measurements need to be metric... there's no way a child or even a teen would know how far away "200 feet" is, or how wide the wingspan is at "seven feet" - at the time of writing this review, I'm 42 years old and even *I* don't know how far that is lol The next page says "3 to 5 inches" and there's no way a 9 year old would be willing to sit there and multiply things by two and a half centimetres and they may forget to ask their parents or even grandparents what that is in metric measurements they can understand. A teen might be slightly more willing to work it out, but it's more likely that they would give up without even trying.
Ah-ha! The author has just said that he's 58 years old at the time he wrote the book, so that explains why he used imperial rather than metric measurements, but his readers are a lot younger than that and wouldn't have a clue what his measurements meant, just like he wouldn't have a clue about centimetres and grams!
There have been superscripts throughout the book that would confuse a 9 year old at best and frustrate a teen that they were expected to use their boring education from school English lessons in their free time... it's a book, not an interview or academic paper or even a college assignment and it's supposed to be aimed at younger readers (the author said it was a Young Adult novel, then changed his mind to Middle Grade when I asked him the age range it was aimed at - the book is marketed to Young Adults aka teens, but the author has now decided it's Middle Grade which is 9-12!).
Overall a very good read, the author just needs to sort out the early images and decide on the age that he's written for then stick to it. A well-deserved 4 stars.