A spider lives in a kuia’s house (a kuia is an elder woman), and they argue about, well, everything. When they squabble over whose weaving is best, they decide to have a competition which their grandchildren will judge. So the kuia weaves beautiful kete (baskets) and sleeping mats and sitting mats, and the spider makes webs to look at and webs to catch flies in and webs to swing it. But the grandchildren don’t care whose weaving is best. They just use the baskets and mats and webs, and enjoy being together.
I like the pictures of weaving in this book, and the lively portraits of the children and the kuia and the spider. The story I’m not so fussed about, mostly because it just trails off at the end. I don’t think it is nearly as successful as Patricia Grace’s more recent book, Maraea and the Albatrosses, although like that book, the language-rhythms feel right. It’s an eay book to read aloud, and my children loved it, especially looking at all the things the grandchildren did with the fabulous kete their grandmother had made for them. And it was one of the earlier picture books available that celebrated Maori and Maori art without othering Maori and Maori art. Much as the boy’s disability in Seadog is simply part of the story, important without being the focus of the story, Maori life and art is simply part of the story, important without being turned into some spectacle. It just… is.