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The Rainbow Web Review by Dena Wood

By Cheryl Block
Illustrated by Gene Takeshita
Block Publishing
1120 Forest Ave., #306
Pacific Grove, CA 93950

The Rainbow Web, by Cheryl Block, is a fun and friendly educational book/software set for young children. It is intended to be used as a thematic unit for teaching science through literature.

In The Rainbow Web, a little spider is enchanted with the rainbows that appear in his spider web as the sun shines through the morning dew. He serendipitously learns that by eating a colored berry he can spin colored threads. The little spider eats various colored berries and slowly creates a rainbow colored web which wins the admiration of his fellow spiders.

However, the little spider soon realizes that, since building his colored web, he has failed to capture any insects to eat. He seeks advice from his father who explains that spiders spin nearly invisible webs for a reason - to catch food.

"Beautiful as your rainbow web may be, there's a reason why spiders' webs are almost invisible. We do not have wings like the flies and gnats, so we cannot chase after them."

The little spider returns and finds a satisfactory solution to his dilemma.

The story is written in a very simple, child-friendly tone; yet, as demonstrated in the synopsis above, it conveys important educational details. The story focuses on the concepts of spiders and colors. The book is hardcover and of good quality.

The illustrations are wonderful and start out in black and white. Spot color is added to the page as each color is introduced in the story. As the story ends, the illustrations are in full-color.

While the story offers a simple introduction to the topics of color and spiders, the accompanying software expands on it and adds a section on insects as well. The Rainbow Web software offers the following options:

Spiders & Insects: A slide-show presentation details body parts, behavior, and more. My son was quick to run up and announce, "Tarantulas are scary, but they are VERY shy!" A "read me" icon allows the child to hear the text read out loud.

Spider Webs: The same type of presentation with information on various types of webs.

Spiders, Spiders: Presentation on different kinds of spiders.

Colors: An introduction to primary and secondary colors with a "game" that allows the child to mix paints of different primary colors to achieve a secondary color.

Catch Me If You Can: A fun little game in which a fly speeds toward the web as you attempt to change the color of the web to match the fly. If you match in time, the fly will be captured. In the advanced version, color swatches are replaced by words only, to encourage beginning readers.

The Puzzler: Interactive puzzles with a "solve it" feature to help you along if you get stuck.

The Story: Allows your child to hear or read The Rainbow Web on the computer.

In addition, the software includes PDFs of 29 activity sheets that incorporate activities such as making spider masks and measuring rainbows. There are activities for math, reading, and science.

The software is easily navigated by children themselves. However, the program is not installed on your computer but rather must be accessed from the appropriate drive (clear instructions included). Since the program doesn't start automatically, a parent will most likely need to get the CD running for their children.

I thought that the games and puzzles would garner the most attention with my boys (ages 5 and 6), but they found the presentations equally interesting. "Mom!! Flies smell with their FEET!" was among the many comments I heard. My one suggestion would be for the "Catch Me" game to speak the color verbally as the child clicks on it, in order to help with recognition.

I found the program adorable, interesting, and quite fun. With the addition of some library books and perhaps a reading of Charlotte's Web, you'd have the makings of a great unit study. I would say this set is geared for ages 3-7 and is priced fairly at $24.95.

Product review by Dena Wood, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, September 2006