The Spider And The Fly - Tony DiTerlizzi The way into my parlour is up a winding stair. And I have many curious things to show you when you are there.

I still have to meet a librarian who can visit a foreign country without making at least a super quick dash into the second-hand bookshops or local libraries he or she comes across. I believe for most of us digging through shelves stuffed with never-seen-before titles or editions is an urge as compulsive as picking flowers in the forest is for Little Red Riding Hood.

Last week my colleague returned from a week-long trip to Ireland and slapped a battered something on my desk, that looked like a slightly misshaped record cover, saying possessively "I’ve brought something for you – but just to look." I gingerly picked up the scary looking black booklet with the glowing, white, scratchy letters on the cover and fell in love. Under the grinning gaze of my fellow picture book connoisseur I turned the pages of Tony DiTerlizzi’s The Spider and the Fly, squealed in happy delight again and again and pointed out all the little extras that make this all black-and-white illustration of the well-known, moralistic poem written in 1829 by Mary Howitt so perfect:

- The eerie, dark and dusty attic atmosphere
- The greasy, smoothly cajoling, fat spider who weaves his web of cunning compliments around the naive and vain, young fly with the half-closed eyes and the cocky smile of a successful underground ruler, while elegantly resting his many watted-house-suit-clad, spindly legs on a ladybug footstool.
- The silly, but beautiful heroine herself: She uses her four arms so coquettishly and bats her lashes under that pretty twenties’ hat. She reminded me a little of Blanche DuBois in her hunger for attention and flattery.

Tony DiTerlizzi The Spider and the Fly

- And, most of all, the props: The thimble wine-glass, the soap-box bed, the book titled "The Joy of Cooking Bugs", the fly-and-spider-themed wallpaper, the bottle cap mirror and, last but not least, the butterfly wings that stand in as a bedroom curtain. Half-hidden and wonderfully macabre!

Before I was finished answering the library's patrons’ e-mails that morning I had nicked enough time to slip behind Amazon’s well-polished doors to order my own equally battered copy and felt very pleased with the way I had just spent my money.

I have to admit, though, that I would not have been brave enough to revel in a story that quite unprettyfied shows a vain, yet lovable heroine stuck inside a heap of spider silk thirty years before. I have been one of those kids who scream their heads off in an amusement park, because the tottering old kiddie-train just passed a couple of grim looking wooden Indians, or who would not go to bed before their mother promised to permanently glue shut all the pages of the Struwwelpeter. So, if your kid is as easily impressed or affected by nasty antagonists and gory details as my younger self had been, I suggest you savor this gloomy gem in secret.