The Spider's Gift: A Ukrainian Christmas Story

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Frequent collaborators Kimmel and Krenina present a genial, straightforward version of this classic Ukrainian folktale, in which an impoverished family receives a miracle because of the kindness they show to the spiders living in their Christmas tree. The rural village setting and details about Ukrainian holiday traditions should appeal to those looking for a less familiar holiday story, and the message that an austere Christmas can still be rewarding is particularly timely. Ages 4–8. (Aug.)
Children's Literature - Carlee Hallman
When Katrusya hears that there will be no Christmas this year, she is angry. Even through the harvest was poor, she insists that they can have a tree. After all, it is free for the cutting. So, she and Grandfather get a tree, and the family decorates it with brass buttons and whittled animals. Then, Father gets out his bandura, a stringed instrument, and plays some music. Mother bakes kolach, a traditional braided Christmas bread. The next morning, Mother discovers that the tree is full of hatchling spiders and silk webs. She wants to put it out, but Katrusya persuades her to wait until after Christmas. For their meal, the kolach is placed on the table with a candle. It stands for Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Hay is placed beneath the table to remind them of Jesus in the manger. The family enjoys a feast. Then, they join other villagers at church. When the family returns from the Christmas service, Katrusya discovers that the spider webs have turned to silver, while the buttons have become gold. The whole village comes to see. Father Roman declares it a miracle and Katrusya wants to share the fortune with the whole village. The spirit of Christmas giving is celebrated in this folk story. Bright colors against many dark backgrounds in these illustrations set the mood. Reviewer: Carlee Hallman
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3—In a traditional story well suited to the economic downturn, Katrusya protests when her parents say they are too poor to have Christmas this year. After a family meeting, they decide to get a tree from the forest, make presents, and create a celebration without spending much money. Katrusya ventures out with her grandfather and picks a tree that seems special to her. They decorate it with buttons and handmade ornaments, but the peace is shattered when her mother discovers the tree is full of baby spiders. Katrusya pleads to keep it and the harmless spiders rather than throw them out into the freezing night. After the family returns from church on Christmas Eve, they find that the spiders' webs have turned to silver, the buttons to gold, and jewels adorn the handmade ornaments. Katrusya declares they should share their bounty with the villagers and they do. The warm acrylic illustrations add to the folkloric feel of this charming, well-told tale.—Anne Connor, Los Angeles Public Library
Kirkus Reviews

A preeminent interpreter of folktales and a talented Ukrainian-American artist join forces for this dramatic retelling of a traditional Ukrainian Christmas story. In this version, teenaged Katrusya and her poverty-stricken family prepare for the holiday with traditional foods and a simple tree from the forest decorated with strings of brass buttons. Spider eggs are discovered on the tree, but the family keeps the tree anyway so the baby spiders won't die in the freezing winter weather. On Christmas Eve the family is repaid for their kindness when the spiderwebs on the tree turn to real silver, and the buttons turn to gold. Kimmel's polished retelling includes details of foods, traditions and terminology, and Krenina's evocative paintings in a dark, moody palette show the difficult life and strong ties of the extended family. (author's note) (Picture book/folktale. 5-9)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780823417438
  • Publisher: Holiday House, Inc.
  • Publication date: 6/1/2005
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 6 - 9 Years
  • Lexile: AD500L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.70 (w) x 11.20 (h) x 0.40 (d)

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