by Eileen Spinelli, illustrated by Jane Dyer - Simon & Schuster, 2004
ages early childhood to pre-teen / emotional resilience, heartwarmers, read-it-before-you-need-it
Sophie is a spider with a heart full of compassion and a soul full of courage. She also has an amazing talent for weaving webs – her mother is proud.
When Sophie sets out to find her place in the world she finds a boarding house, moves in and sets to work weaving wondrous webs: webs to act as curtains, webs to act as a suit of clothes, webs to act as slippers.
But each time she begins work she is shooed away, until finally she settles in a room with a young woman who is awaiting the arrival of a baby. Here she begins her masterpiece – a truly beautiful blanket for the baby.
Sophie is a most appealing spider – she wears brightly coloured tights that she wove herself and she tries hard to find a home where she will be useful.
By the time Cook offends Sophie by calling her an ‘ugly, disgusting spider’, we feel a little offended too.
She does indeed produce beautiful work – the illustrations are so delicate and inviting that it starts to seem like a spider web baby blanket would actually be a good idea!
This is a soft story; it would be a nice one to read to a child devoted to spiders, or perhaps to a child terrified of spiders! Although Sophie takes centre stage, there are so many really wonderful insights into life. Sophie ages gracefully throughout the book reminding us that age is both inevitable and beautiful.
The varying reactions of the landlady, the tugboat captain and cook to what is really a gift, remind us to look carefully for the good in life. And the young woman’s gentle response to Sophie reminds us to care for those around us - and so much more. This lovely book is really helpful for parents and educators, for:
Starting a conversation about fears
Starting a conversation about service even when it’s not appreciated
Instilling a desire to help others
Building an ability to notice needs
Noticing and appreciating beauty in everyday things
Talking about tenacity, courage and conviction
Noticing artistry in the things we make and do
Talking about the different ways we work
Being aware of people who struggle
Being grateful for home and family
And for developing family ‘in’ jokes – you know – like brushing away spider webs and saying ‘Sorry, Sophie’ as you do!