“The Cobweb Christmas” by Shirley Climo; illustrations by Joe Lasker
Nostalgia is a big part of Christmas, and so, too, are books, as you may imagine. I reference Thomas Jefferson’s iconic quote, “I cannot live without books.” And so, when you combine the two, memories waft up like Ghosts of Christmas Past.
And they were warm and wonderful reads then, and they are this Christmas,as I reread them.
Cobweb Christmas by Shirley Climo with illustrations by Joe Lasker, first published in 1982, has a special place in my heart for several reasons:
It’s a book I first found at Christmas and shared with my children when they were 3 and 7.
Its central figure is an aged” Auntie” or Tante in German, as she is called, and she is alone at Christmas, save for a host of Christmas critters.
She is goodness itself and her goodness is rewarded.
It’s rewarded by way of those we least expect goodness from.
Magic things can happen at Christmas.
Tante lives in a cozy cottage in the middle of a forest. It’s Christmas Eve and she has chores to do as she intones variously:
Time to clean for Christmas.
Time to fetch Christmas.
Time to make Christmas.
Time to share Christmas.
Tante tidies her cottage, chops down a tree, then lugs it home, decorates it with shiny red apples, bakes gingerbread cookies to adorn the tree, and invites the neighborhood children in for samples.
When the children had nibbled the apples and sampled the cookies, they went home to wait for Christkindel. Christkindel was the spirit who went from house to house to house on Christmas Eve and slipped presents into the toes of their shoes.
The barnyard animals press in on Tante’s window on Christmas Eve; the cat, dog, cow, donkey, rooster and mouse family all receive a gift. But wait! What about a gift for Tante? How about a little Christmas magic for her?
But no one could give Tante what she wanted. All of her life, the little old woman had heard stories about marvelous happenings on Christmas Eve. Cocks would crow at midnight. Bees could hum a carol. Animals might speak aloud. More than anything else, Tante wanted some Christmas magic that was not of her own making. So the old woman sat down in her rocking chair and said, “Now it’s time to wait for Christmas.”
Will Tante get some magic this Christmas? Who will bring it?
I’ll give you a hint, gentle Christmas readers. Christkindel will visit and help, but so will some web weavers that have never had Christmas themselves.
Shirley Climo has woven a Tante tale that will become a picture book Christmas tradition in your home, aided by Joe Lasker’s pastel paintings that are the perfect fit for this magical Christmas story of kindness rewarded.
Merry Christmas, Tante!!