The Girl Who Built a Spider -- Middle Grades STEM Novel Review


Disclosure: I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

A few weeks ago I shared some spider fun facts and spider craft round-up with the promise of two books involving spiders. I shared a picture book about the day in the life of a jumper spider and then went on vacation. Today I am sharing the middle grades novel that involves a mechanical spider. The book is a perfect summer STEM novel. It is The Girl Who Built a Spider by George Brewington. It is recommended for ages 8 to 12.

From the Publisher:

In this fun-filled, action-packed middle grade novel, three young inventors are offered the chance to work at the renowned Dr. Flax's laboratory—where dazzling science, new friendships, and killer robots await.

When Theresa Brown wins the Charleston County Middle School Science Fair, she receives the opportunity of a lifetime—an invitation to celebrated scientist Dr. Flax’s laboratory and a summer spent building the invention of her dreams. Along with the second- and third-place finishers of the science fair, Theresa is whisked off to a world of robots, excitement, and danger. Dr. Flax claims his inventions are going to help stop climate change and make the world a better, safer place, but is that true? And can Theresa and her friends get to the bottom of the mysteries of his laboratory?

From Me:

Let's start with the cover. I love that Theresa is a person of color. The characters are well developed and each so different. Theresa is a builder. She loves tinkering with robots and has been doing her own welding most of her life thanks to her uncle who owns a auto body shop. She only has her father as her mother died in a hurricane. Her father is paranoid about protecting Theresa and keeping her safe. Theresa doesn't tell him about the science fair and enters it even though there is a storm coming and she knows it will upset her father that she left the house. She doesn't enter it to win first place, but to show people her creation--her mechanical spider. Then when she wins and gets the offer to intern at Flax Laboratories, she is all in. The second place winner, Ashley, is upset she didn't win. Her parents don't approve of second place. The third place winner, Jon, is a child in a big family who is always on the move and has many siblings to compete and hang out with. 

Throughout the story the characters are developed, and their interactions seem very genuine and real. Each child's science fair focus is different. Theresa has her spider, Ashley works with algae in hopes to feed the world, and Jon creates bubbles including plastic ones. Dr. Flax hopes each of them can help find ways to make the world better. He himself has been trying to slow global warming. His laboratories are made from an old shopping mall and uses recycled products, water, solar and many other amazing ideas. His idea for the kids for the summer is to give them each their own laboratory and let them create. In the afternoons they have sit down meetings to collaborate. At each meeting he discusses scientific words and helps educate them about different things to consider when creating. There are words like possibility, sustainability, and consequentiality. Many of the topics go into the world of ethics of creation. There is so much that can be pulled out for conversations in a class or group. 

The kids themselves each have different issues. Ashley deals with jealousy and always wanting to be the first and best. She has pressure from her parents. Jon is almost lost with his many siblings and deals with never having time for himself. Theresa deals with loneliness and has almost been forced to be the adult in the family because of how paranoid her father is. Together they work through issues and find ways to overcome the obstacles in their ways. It really is a fun book and will be the perfect summer read to get kids thinking about STEM topics as well as environmental issues. It also would be a great book to discuss with a class or group because of the issues discussed and discovered. 

Of course, I haven't shared the biggest issue in the book. It is artificial intelligence. Yes, straight from the news the discussion can be about how far should we take AI. Dr. Flax's robots are human like and some begin to take over the laboratories with hopes of taking over the world. Talk about discussion topics!! I hope you will check out this fun book!!