An impoverished single human mother struggling to provide a Christmas treat for her children and a spider mother trying to care for her own babies find their lives intersecting on Christmas Eve in this poignant interpretation of a Ukrainian folktale.
Luminous illustrations in jewel-bright tones show the smiling mother spider in her kerchief and dress, trying to keep her seven babies warm outside in the wintry weather. The mother spider is quite appealing in the illustrations, with a gentle demeanor and sweet expression that should mollify any arachnophobic readers. The human mother does her best to care for her three children in their tiny cottage, but she can’t afford any of the Christmas toys or sweets sold in the market stalls. Late on Christmas Eve, she goes out to bring in a little fir tree from the forest, though she has only ideas and no materials for decorations. The spider mother and her children are hidden in the tree, and during the night, the spider spins gossamer decorations for the tree using the woman’s sketches as inspiration. The story unfolds smoothly, with the lyrical, dramatic text conveying the desperate circumstances of the family’s poverty, as well as the miraculous resolution for both devoted mothers.
An appealing story with a magical aura spun by the shimmering illustrations and memorable story. (author’s note) (Picture book/folktale. 4-8)