Comics : The Story of Spider-Man (Reading Level 2)

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This review was first published on: Dec 2013.

Background...

This is another "Level 2" reading book which was co-released in the U.S. under the "World of Reading" brand and in the UK/Australia/NZ as "Ready-to-Read".

In Detail...

The Story of Spider-Man (Reading Level 2)
Oct 2012 : SM Title
Find ISBN 9781423154099
Summary: World of Reading/Ready-to-Read (Level 2)
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Review

Just like the other titles in this series, this book re-tells (for the umpteenth time) the story of the Origin of Spider-Man. Like many other versions, this one has also been assembled with artwork swiped from the 2011 picture/story book The Amazing Spider-Man: An Origin Story.

This version does cover most of the basics, though only in the most superficial fashion. Peter, lives with Aunt/Uncle, likes science, teased at school (by the cool kids who like "Sports and Music"). Visits experiment in science "rays", gets bitten by spider, gains powers, fights wrestler, becomes famous, ignores burglar, comes home...

...and police tell him "there had been a crime" and "Uncle Ben was the victim".

Spider-Man catches the burglar in the warehouse, and is sad. But remembers that Uncle Ben said that "With great power," etc.

In General...

Well, there's not much to criticise in the construction. Pretty pictures. One sentence per illustration. I guess the real question is, does this book hit a suitable target market at all?

I've always struggled with how to tell Spider-Man's origin to a kid of 6-8 years of age (the approximate lexical target market for a book of this complexity). Peter's Uncle Ben is killed in a home invasion. Is that a story I would choose to tell to my seven year old? As a parent, I'm not entirely convinced that's an appropriate event to describe.

And yet, that death (and the associated sentiment of guilt) is a fundamental element of the Spider-Man creation. To give Spider-Man's "origin story" without that key incident is to remove the essential heart of the plot, and would pretty much make a mockery of Spider-Man's innovative, fascinating and unique super-hero background.

So what to do? Well, I guess that's up to you as the parent. At what age do you let your child watch murder and violent death on TV? Are you ready and prepared to explain to your six-year old child that sometimes burglars just come to people's houses at night and kill innocent people? If so, then I guess this is the kind of book you might consider handing over to your ready-to-read child.

Personally, while my five-year-old daughter is making great reading progress, I'm going to stick with Fairies and flying ponies. I'll leave the gun crime and tragic loss for a later date.

Overall Rating...

With Spider-Man origin books for young readers, you're damned if you do and damned if you don't. Leave in the death of Uncle Ben and you create something not particularly palatable. Take it out and you utterly destroy the substance of the story.

The text is lexically simple. This illustrations are just as visually attractive as they were in the other dozens of books which have also re-re-re-used them. Unfortunately, my final judgement on the subject matter is that it is (despite my obvious approval on many other levels) probably inappropriate for the target reading age.

I'm not supporting rampant censorship. I'm just saying that kids can enjoy Spider-Man without needing to fully understand the underlying tragedy. All in good time, kids. The full story will still be there for you when you're ten years old.

Two webs.