720 – The Spider and the Fly

The Spider and the Fly

The Spider and the Fly title page illustration,
Acryla gouache on Bristol board
Collection of the artist

I was not the original illustrator intended to render The Spider and The Fly. My editor, Kevin Lewis, actually was hoping to get Fred Marcellino, who passed away while they were thinking about publishing this book. I had been chosen to be the artist for it. I did not know the entire poem, I think I knew the opening lines of the poem like so many people. “Will you walk into my parlor, said the spider to the fly.”, but I didn’t know the entire poem.

I remember he faxed it, that’s how long ago this was, he faxed the entire poem. I remember reading it upside down as it came out of the fax machine. It got to the end of the book, and the spider eats the fly, and she’s dead. I thought,”Well wait, there’s gonna be another page of story coming out of here.”, and nope, that was the whole story.

Immediately I thought,”How do I tell this for children and not scare them or terrify them?” I don’t mind spooking a kid, but I don’t ever want to terrify them. I immediately thought of Chaz Adams. I immediately thought of Edward Gory, and I approached the illustrations for The Spider and the Fly with those guys in the back of my mind.

The paintings were all done in two colors, a tube of black gouache, and a tube of white gouache, which I primarily use for fixing, repairing parts of the illustration. When we did the final printing, we actually printed the book in two colors. We used a black ink, and we replaced all the grays with a silver ink to give it that shine from an old silent movie.

To be totally honest, I really thought that The Spider and the Fly was one of those stories that only a niche group would enjoy and adore, and to my great surprise and delight, not only did it become a New York Times bestseller, but it won a Caldecott Honor in 2003.