Booktalk for MASTERS OF DISGUISE by Rebecca Johnson

masters-of-disguiseImagine you’re walking through the rain forest in Peru. Let’s even say it’s nighttime, so you’re shining your flashlight on the dark path ahead. Then you look up and see a web with a GIANT SPIDER in it. The spider starts twitching and moving.

If you wait and watch, you may see a teeny tiny spider less than a ¼ inch long come out and start working on the web. The big spider is actually a decoy—a puppet of sorts. The little spider creates it out of leaves, egg sacs, insect bits, and some of its own dead skin, all woven in with silk. The little spider gives the decoy a body, head, and 8 legs, just like a real spider. When it senses danger, it plucks the strands of the web, making the big spider seem alive.

Predators that would love to munch on a tiny spider may steer clear of this big guy.

Masters of Disguise profiles nine animals that have unusual tricks to help them survive. (On the cover is the assassin bug. This insect carries up to 20 ant corpses on its back as a way to fool both predators and prey.)

Genre: nonfiction

Grades 4-7.


Anna’s take on it:

I love booktalking Rebecca Johnson’s books. One of her previous books, When Lunch Fights Back, was a superstar title on my list last year, and I’m having so much fun with this new title.

I play up the scene of walking through the Peruvian jungle at night, shining the flashlight, and seeing a web with a giant spider in it. I show the size of the spider—about an inch and a half long—with my fingers, and say, “Then the spider starts twitching and moving.” I get some good shudders from the audience.

Sometimes I ask kids what they’d do—run away, or stick around to check out the spider—and usually there are at least a few who want to investigate. I go on with the booktalk from there, showing photos in the book (page 22-23) and explaining that the big spider is a fake.

There are a number of articles and photos online about this spider, including a National Geographic interview here and a Wired article here.

The kids think that it’s the coolest thing ever. Me too.