Author: Raymond Arroyo
Illustrator: Randy Gallegos
Published: Sophia Institute Press
Age Range: 3 – 7
This Christmas picture book is an absolute pleasure to hold and read. Raymond Arroyo, famous EWTN presenter and author of the Will Wilder series, has written an amazing tale that is set during The Holy Family’s journey to Egypt. Sophia Institute Press has produced this gorgeously illustrated book. Using regal tones of dark purple and golden yellow, this dramatic tale is stunningly told with illustrations that span each double page spread. Light and dark are brilliantly used to provide depth, drama and wonder to each illustration. In contrast to the warmth of the golden light emanating from Joseph’s lamp, suggestions of danger lurk in the dark shadows that surround them.
The story itself is well known. A faithful spider spins a massive, golden web during the night, and Herod’s soldiers decide not to search the cave next morning, thinking that the web would be broken if someone was inside. Raymond Arroyo has written this tale beautifully, adding a special connection between the spider and Baby Jesus. The spider plucks the strands of her web to produce beautiful music that only Baby Jesus can hear – and in turn, Baby Jesus communicates His special instructions to weave a golden web across the mouth of the cave. Calling on her spider children, they spin and weave together throughout the night:
“…weaving their golden silk in a frantic, rhythmic dance.”
Don’t you just love that image of the spiders dancing and weaving a golden web together? This story is beautifully and wonderfully written. Excitement mounts as Joseph stands in readiness to defend his family with only his wooden staff to protect them. Outside the soldiers hesitate and regard the golden web, shimmering and sparkling in the morning sunlight. In the middle of her glistening web, Nephila remains and calmly regards the Roman soldiers.
When they leave, Mary hears the ethereal tune that Nephila bows on her golden web. Knowing she is safe; Mary snuggles Baby Jesus and drifts back to sleep.
Such a beautiful story!
Impressively, the images are lifelike and dramatic – not at all childlike or cute. Sophia Press has done a remarkable job of presenting Nephali’s web as a glowing, fluorescent presence on each page. Stunning! I particularly love the iconic image that graces the front cover of this gorgeous book – Mary holding Jesus as He plucks Nephail’s web, golden light bathing their faces.
This is my favourite of all of the Christmas books I have reviewed this year. Sophia Press has brought together all of the elements so carefully and brilliantly – writing, illustrations, colouring and overall production. Ultimately this is a story of Faith, Courage and Hope. I can’t recommend this book highly enough – you can purchase your copy HERE.
You can view an interesting interview with Raymond Arroro as he details how this amazing book came together HERE.
Homeschool and Teacher Ideas.
- Some spider craft seems appropriate here! Try these:
Paper cut out web (I’d use Christmas paper or something sparkly https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hgBwsJpj_B8)
Here’s a crocheted web (why not use sparkly or shiny yarn?): https://www.pinterest.com.au/pin/417145984219724706/
How to draw a spider web for young children: good for budding geometry skills https://www.pinterest.com.au/pin/33354853481013315/:
Some simple spider craft here: https://kidscraftroom.com/the-best-spider-crafts-for-kids/
- Make up a poster: How Nephali Saved Christmas. Ask children to write the story briefly on a poster then decorate it with spider webs and spiders.
- Why not alter this exercise and call it ‘Nephali’s web’. https://i.pinimg.com/originals/2c/bb/45/2cbb45797b41d7516e08da9c27bc849f.jpg
Draw up this Charlotte’s web word sheet (swap Charlotte’s name for Nephali) and ask children to include the qualities or virtues that each character displays in the story: for example, Saint Joseph shows courage and determination, Mary shows compassion and love, Nephali shows obedience and hard work etc.
You can then have discussions with young children about how them might show these same qualities – have them write down their answers or draw them.