Title: Westly: A Spider’s Tale
Author: Bryan Beus
Publisher: Shadow Mountain
Release Date: September 2015
Length: 176 pages
This is tale of a caterpillar named Westly who is destined to be a Monarch butterfly and the next king of the butterfly kingdom. But sometimes things don’t turn out the way we plan. When Westly emerges from his cocoon he is nothing like he expected. As a spider he must rediscover who he is. Adopted by the “dirt eaters,” Westly is determined to make a difference. He is determined to belong, to be loved, and most importantly, to become who he was born to be.
***** Review *****
Westly is a young caterpillar and the son of the king Monarch butterfly. He is intent on being the best butterfly he can be, but when he emerges from his cocoon it is not at all the transformation he wanted. He is no butterfly, much to the shock of the butterflies in the chandelier of the menagerie. Instead of becoming the butterfly princeling, Westly is adopted down below by the “dirt eaters.” He is so unsure of himself and only wants to help, but he must learn how to use his new talents and make new friends in order to do so.
Westly – a young caterpillar-turned-spider trying to discover who he is
Sara – Westly’s closest caterpillar friend
Mr. Dragonfly – leader of the gardeners (“dirt eaters”)
Zug Zug – a fly and one of the gardeners
Mr. Raven – Westly’s raven friend who lives outside the menagerie
The cover and the synopsis sounded adorable. I knew to expect some type of coming-of-age story with an emphasis on differences.
The story – and Westly – are quite cute. This is definitely a story that speaks to a younger reading audience. The characters are all bugs and insects living in a menagerie.
“Dirt eater!” a classmate yelled, pointing at the empty air.
“Where?” Sara dropped her ivy and jumped to her feet. There was nothing to see, but the other caterpillars still formed a mock battalion.
Assuming it was part of a game, Sara played along. She gasped, putting her hands on her cheeks, and then called out, “Intruders! Fire the sprinklers!” And with that she ran off with the other caterpillars.
Although the butterflies and the gardeners both live within the menagerie, there is a serious species divide. The butterflies live in the beautiful chandelier and are quite disdainful and snobbish about the creatures who live below on the ground. They refer to the gardeners as “dirt eaters,” who in turn refer to the butterflies as “fuzzheads.”
Since he had been a child, the sparkling chandelier had been the place he called home, the place where he thought he belonged. But his friends and family glaring at him in shock and disgust was more than he could bear.
After Westly’s botched transformation that lands him as an eight-legged arachnid, he traverses from the chandelier he has lived in all his life with the butterflies down to the ground floor with an eclectic group of insects. Westly does not look like a butterfly so he no longer fits in at the chandelier. The embarrassment is enough to force him to find a home elsewhere. Westly looks like he fits in much better with the gardeners, but he struggles to actually fit into the gardener’s culture.
Living in the chandelier was the high life. When Westly first bumps into the rough-and-tumble group of gardeners, it is not what he would have expected of them. The perceptions he’s had of the “dirt eaters” all his life are nothing like the hard working gardeners he meets. As Westly struggles to find his way and find out who he is, he sets out on a little journey of his own.
Westly licked his lips and tapped his hands together. While he had always known there was a world outside the menagerie, it had never occurred to Westly that he would ever explore it.
Westly makes all manner of new friends, including Mr. Raven who lives outside of the menagerie. The raven helps Westly understand who – or rather, what – he is; he teaches Westly how to be a spider and to use his abilities. Westly finds strength and comfort in this new friendship.
Even though Westly is settling in his role within the gardeners and continuing to learn about being a spider, there is a darkness that will strike the menagerie. Westly – the one creature who has lived in both worlds within the menagerie – is the only one who can set things right.
There is a defined lesson in Westly’s story that comes to be embodied in the creatures of the menagerie. Westly shows the “fuzzheads” and the “dirt eaters” that it is OK to be different. Sometimes it takes diversity to come together and solve problems for the good of all.
This is a great read for teaching a few life lessons to youngsters about judging others, differences, diversity and problem solving. Westly features a sense of adventure and courage, with themes that will appeal to young readers. It is a great read about diversity and differences.
***** About the Author *****
Bryan Beus – which rhymes with Zeus – is the winner of the Kirchoff/Wohlberg Award from The New York Society of Illustrators. He works full time as an illustrator for magazines, book covers, film and game conceptual art, and more. When not writing and drawing, he enjoys spending time with his wife, Amanda, mindful meditation, drinking root beer floats, and eating far too many Sour Patch Watermelons. Westly is his debut novel.