Here’s what Kirkus Reviews had to say about Along Came Spider:
Spider Stevens and Trey Cooper have lived next door to each other their entire lives and have been best friends throughout their years at Spiro Agnew Elementary School. Trey has a type of autism that seems to accentuate the worst traits of ADHD and OCD. He has poor self-control, peculiar habits and awkward social skills. In fifth grade, Trey’s obvious eccentricities, once acceptable and even endearing, are now a liability, and Trey’s peers now regard him as weird and an outcast. This puts Spider in the difficult position of having to choose whether to remain loyal to his oldest friend or to abandon him to join the ranks of the popular kids. Preller adeptly portrays the psychological and social dynamics of this age group, and Trey is realistic and sympathetic as a misfit, if not as memorable as Jack Gantos’s Joey Pigza or Jerry Spinelli’s David Zinkoff. The pressures Spider feels from his peers to belong and conform will resonate with middle-grade readers
I don’t know, reviews are so weird. I don’t think there’s anything particularly wrong with this review, though naturally is doesn’t inspire me to do the Dance of Joy. The Spinelli/Zinkoff reference is from the book, Loser, btw, which several people told me to read when I first discussed Spider with them. The problem is, though I hugely respect Spinelli — first book, age 41! — I find it’s distinctly unhelpful to read another author’s take on a similar topic. It’s paralyzing. There are many times when I use books as sources of inspiration, but when I’m deep into writing, I stay far away from any material that might be close to what I’m doing.
One other thing about that word, autism. Trey Cooper is never diagnosed in the book. I never said that he is autistic, intentionally. I did that for several reasons, primarily because I don’t think that kids relate to each other that way. If somebody makes another child angry or annoyed, a typical eleven-year-old isn’t going to think, “Oh, his mother is an alcoholic,” or, “That’s cool, he’s got OCD.” The response is more direct and immediate. The second reason is that I’m not qualified to put a medical label on Trey, though I gave him many traits common with the vast array of characteristics that fall under Spectrum Disorders. Lastly, one aspect of the book is getting away from labels (jock, geek, brainiac, weirdo, whatever), and of trying to see the individual underneath, i.e., walking a mile in someone else’s sneakers.
On a brighter note, I’ll share with you that I just wrote a post about some possible read alouds I’d like to share with my 5th graders, and my reasons why. Choice Literacy, a website for language arts teachers, picked it up, and linked to it in their latest newsletter. In the last day and a half, we’ve had over 1200 hits (and still coming in strong!) from the Choice Literacy referral.
Along Came Spider was one of my choices listed, so that’s a lot of possible exposure for this book. It was totally unexpected to me, but sometimes the unexpected pleasures are the best!