Review: Robert the Bruce: the King and the Spider

Robert the Bruce 150Robert the Bruce: the King and the Spider is the latest in the Traditional Scottish Tales series from Picture Kelpies.

It is a picture book that enriches the legend for readers of all ages – from children encountering the story of the King and the Spider for the first time, to those for whom it is a familiar cornerstone of culture.

Molly MacPherson’s story follows the Scottish king from his sixth defeat by the English, at Methven in 1306, into hiding and close to despair, as he conceals himself in a sea cave. There, he watches and wills a spider to try, try and try to secure her web – finally succeeding on the seventh attempt.

By focusing on a short, celebrated episode (framed with more detailed information) the book has the potential to inspire broader learning, but, like the legend, its strongest appeal lies in being a simple story about never giving up.

In this version, a little girl – Sir Hugh Bysset’s daughter, Brianna – wakes from a dream to spot an approaching English ship, and warns the king just in time. The fact that a child plays a pivotal role adds an extra layer of appeal for young readers.

The King and the Spider is illustrated by Teresa Martinez, who is gifted at conveying the mood of each scene as well as details of period and landscape. We especially enjoyed hunting for a spider deftly hidden on each spread.

Robert the Bruce, the King and the Spider, by Molly MacPherson, ill Teresa Martinez (Picture Kelpies).

  • Because we received a review copy of this book, we have made a donation of £6.99 to Mary’s Meals, so a hungry child will receive a meal a day in school for six months. Read here to find out how this works.

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