The Curse of the Cobweb Queen (Step Into Reading: A Step 3 Book) Library Binding
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Answer: Turns out that the pearl is at the lair of the (spooky music here) Cobweb Queen, a villainess that Uncle Tooth has tussled with, and lost to, before!
As a reader/primer, I have to say that it is a good challenge for early readers. There is a great deal of dialog and whole pages of text; though I should add the print is still quite large. My own daughter is only six, and we cope with the amount of text by taking turns. Sometimes we alternate pages, and sometimes we take on the roles of the various characters. A sample of the text follows so you can judge for yourselves:
They stepped through the castle
entrance into a dark hallway.
There were things lying on the
ground - small, round, dark things.
"Eenie Meanies!" whispered Uncle Tooth.
"You didn't tell me there were going to
be monsters," he said.
Uncle Tooth poked an Eenie Meanie
with his sword. It didn't move.
"They are the Cobweb Queen's
guards," he explained....
As to the previous reviewers comments that there is boy bashing, I have to laugh because I thought just the opposite. It seemed to me that Otto was rather condescending towards Olivia - just because she was a girl. He says things like: "Are you trying to be a detective or something?"
And in fact, when it comes to going to the island, Auntie Hick is portrayed as a wilting flower who can not contemplate such a venture and who must lay down and rest. And when little Olivia shows up at the docks, Otto asks her what she is doing there. When she answers that she wants to go along, Otto answers: "But you'll spoil everything!"
But that is okay, because in the end, Olivia saves the day... or at least saves Otto from a dungeon. So my take on the 'bashing' is that this book is making an effort to break down stereotypes, rather than to create them.
Four Stars. Good Read-aloud. In general, I think it is an early mystery book that most children would enjoy. In any case, a definite step up from other early readers: this one has excitement and a plot worthy of kids.
All of the Otto and Uncle Tooth series are written to roughly the same literacy level, so don't be fooled by a rating. They are all at around a tough level 4 in the current Step Into Reading scale, in my opinion. They have a good smattering of easy and slightly harder words, with repetition of some tough letter combinations. In addition the sheer number of words in one of these 48-page books means reading one from start to finish will take a while. My four-year-old took over an hour to finish Cobweb Queen the third time through.
I am always amazed when someone gives one of Hayes's books a low rating because of his use of "foul" language (by gosh, just like the real world, the characters in his books speak scornfully at times!), or "adult" situations. It's simple: if you want your child to grow up dull and uninteresting, feed her babyfied pap. If you want to encourage a sense of humor and imagination, read Hayes's books and others like them. The world is not simple, easy, or often polite, but there is gentle humor and humanity lurking behind every word.
Especially good are the Otto and Uncle Tooth stories.