Anna and her mum now live with their new family in a massive house in the countryside. Anna loves the house but avoids the creepy basement where her stepbrother, Hal, spends most of his time alone, playing about in his laboratory. He’s weird and a genius – or as Mum says, special and different. Anna’s in awe of him and scared of his strange experiments. One day, she has no choice but to enter the lab – and her worst fears are confirmed. There, curled up under a pot plant is an enormous black hairy-scary thing. It’s a female tarantula turned monster, which Hal has been feeding with growth hormones. Tula, as she’s called, is very intelligent, Hal explains, so he’s trained her to carry out household chores, which she loves. He adores the spider, certain that she’s the green solution to housework. But Anna has a long way to go before she overcomes her spider fears.
Divided into chapters, the story is very funny, energetically written and punctuated with easy dialogue. Characters are lively and varied. Anna, whose story this is, is big-hearted, her observations acute and her predicaments comic. She’s also a great problem-solver, as the brilliant ending shows. Hal, whose behaviour is perhaps somewhere along the autism spectrum, is a whizz kid obsessed with his pet, while she, Tula, the star of the story, has a huge and loving presence, in spite of her appearance. Readers who are likely to react as Anna did initially will, by the end of this quirky story, come to see her in an entirely new light!