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The Spider's Gift: A Ukrainian Christmas Story School & Library Binding – July 5, 2010


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The Spider's Gift: A Ukrainian Christmas Story + A Christmas Spider's Miracle + Cobweb Christmas: The Tradition of Tinsel
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Editorial Reviews

From 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
© Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

Christmas and spiders seem an unlikely match, but painterly illustrations by Ukrainian native Krenina work well with a charmingly retold text to introduce American children to this unusual yet appealing holiday fable. The opening line—“‘No Christmas?’”—will immediately grab kids’ attention; the rest of the story combines traditional, religious Christmas elements (such as the braided bread that represents the Holy Trinity) with an unexpected miraculous gift from spiders nesting in the family’s Christmas tree. Cultural elements that may be unfamiliar, such as a bandura (similar to a mandolin), complement the recognizable sense of anticipation and preparation for this festive holiday. The impoverished family’s homemade Christmas is a warm, happy one; their love is beautifully expressed in golden tones that highlight faces lit by candles in contrast with dark, shadowy backgrounds. The mystical element of the spider’s gift, webs that turn into real silver in return for the family sheltering baby spiders in the tree, is true to the spirit of the original Christmas miracle. Grades K-2. --Diane Foote
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 6 and up
  • Grade Level: 1 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 500L (What's this?)
  • School & Library Binding: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Holiday House; 1 edition (July 5, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0823417433
  • ISBN-13: 978-0823417438
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 9 x 11.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #731,187 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Eric A. Kimmel is a native New Yorker who lives in Oregon. He was born in Brooklyn, NY where he learned to love books and traditional stories from an early age. He could hear five different languages without leaving his block. Eric taught teachers as a professor of Education at Indiana University at South Bend and Portland State University. His favorite classes were children's literature, language arts, storytelling, and handwriting. He left the university in 1993 to become a full-time writer, a dream he had had since kindergarten.

Eric's books have won numerous awards. He and his wife Doris have traveled all over the world, sharing his books and stories with school children in China, Africa, and Turkey.

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Darilee Bednar on November 8, 2010
Format: School & Library Binding
Third St Books, downtown Marysville WA
THE SPIDER'S GIFT
A Ukrainian Christmas Story

retold by Eric A. Kimmel
illustrated by Katya Krenina

Reviewers are Abbygail, age 4
Isabel, age 3
Grammy

"Book is a story about spiders and mom and daddy and brother and sisters
"The Granddad said they couldn't have Christmas because they were poor.
"The Christmas tree was free.
"The girl and her Granddad found the tree.
"The tree had baby spiders on it.
"Momma said no spiders in my house... the girl said please don't kill the spiders.
"After Church all the webs on the tree became silver.
"They lived happy ever after." - Abbygail

Isabel picked out this Ukrainian folktale book story from a pile of books and even though it seems we are rushing Christmas I'm rather glad.

It's a folktale and the illustrations are definitely stylized. Exceptional old-fashion and very lovely, the girls pointed out this picture and that picture as their favorite.

The story was rather long and I didn't realize that Abbygail was paying that much attention to the story until she started to give her review and the story was retold accurately.

Think the girls and I will have to hit the Russian bakery... Together we give this book and artwork 5 stars..
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By B. Miller on August 25, 2010
Format: School & Library Binding Verified Purchase
For Ukrainians, spiders are a symbol of diligence and modesty. In "The Spider's Gift," Eric Kimmel pays special homage to the much maligned little arachnid. Weaving together familiar elements with cultural components, Eric presents a magical tale of holiday wonder.

Katrusya is upset that there won't be a Christmas this year. Who wouldn't be upset! "No Christmas!" she overhears her grandfather say. Grandfather explains that the harvest was poor. There's money for food, but not for presents.

Grandmother and sister Annie promise they can make their own presents. But they need to have a Christmas tree, Katrusya insists. So she and Grandfather walk deep in the woods, "between the tall, silent pines." They search for the perfect tree. At last they bring one home. All day the family decorates the tree, weave pine boughs into wreaths, and bake kolach . Father even plays Christmas songs on his bandura. But it seems that's not all they bring home! On Christmas Eve, they discover in the tree hundreds of baby spiders spinning tiny webs "finer than a baby's hair"! Will Christmas be ruined? Katrusya begs Mother not to throw out the tree. But no one could imagine the miracle about to unfold.

Ukrainian artist Katya Krenina works in acrylic, offering rich traditional illustrations in this special story about family and kindness, and the real magic of Christmas.

By the way, according to the author's note, "Veselykh Sviat" means Happy Holidays!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Experienced Editor VINE VOICE on April 21, 2011
Format: School & Library Binding
This version of a traditional tale features rich new artwork. The story opens as a young girl, Katrusya, learns that her poor family will have "no Christmas" this year, by which her father means no money for presents. This decision is quickly overturned when everyone agrees to have homemade gifts and decorations. Then the tree they chop down in the forest turns out to be full of baby spiders. Katrusya begs her mother to let the little spiders stay, and her kindness is repaid with a "miracle." Dramatic acrylic paintings add depth to the text.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Yaroslava Benko on March 22, 2011
Format: School & Library Binding
In Ukraine, the spider (pavuk) has been held in high esteem since prehistoric times; the arachnid was considered the center of the universe, with the spiderweb contributing to the world's creation. In fact, there are pre-Christian Christmas carols (koliadky) about spiders and spiderwebs, there's a ritual wedding song from the Bukovyna area of Ukraine which mentions spiders, and the spider and spiderweb motifs appear in many guises in Ukrainian folk art (on pysanky [Ukrainian Easter eggs], in embroidery, weaving, and other arts). The story of the spider and its web on the Christmas tree (yalynka) is relatively new, and probably arrived from Germany along with the Christmas tree in the 19th century.

Albeit The Spider's Gift: A Ukrainian Christmas Story is recommended for ages 4-8 (Grades K-3), I, nonetheless, recommend it for all ages, adult through toddler. Retold by Eric A. Kimmel and illustrated by Katya Krenina, the story is based on a well-known Ukrainian story about a poor family who has nothing with which to decorate its Christmas tree. A spider overhears this lament and overnight spins its web over the entire tree. In the morning, the family awakens to the glitter and sparkle that ensue from the sunlight shining on the Christmas tree's web. This story explains the tradition of tinsel on the tree (please see my comment following this review for further information).

The Spider's Gift is one rendition of the above Ukrainian classic Christmas story. In Kimmel's version, however, the story deviates as follows. The protagonist, Katrusya, is told by her older brother, Danilo, that he overheard their father and grandfather say that they would have "no Christmas" that year because of their poor harvest.
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