Jemmy and the Little Spider of Hope
Written by: Sergio Diaz
CLASSIC BOOK REVIEW
Jemmy and the Little Spider of Hope is a fictitious account of how one of the most important elements of the nativity scene – the guiding star – came into being. In this story aimed at younger readers, author Sergio Diaz pieces together caricatures of characters from the nativity. With sing-song prose that’s easy to read, it delivers a story of hope and magic that’s sure to leave the little ones wide-eyed with wonder.
Jemmy is a little mouse who lives in an unnamed city, although his proximity to “a cave at the foot of a mountain” where a child, the king of kings, is to be born suggests his proximity to Judaea. He discovers a special spider called Hope who asks him to bring her to the child about to be born in the cave tonight. Thus begins an adventure that puts our little hero and his friends in danger throughout and ends in a beautiful, almost elegiac manner.
The references to the nativity of Christ are thinly veiled throughout the storybook, and this can be both a good and a bad thing. Traditional Christians will have a thing or two to say about the way the interpretation of events and might go so far as to criticize some of the characters for sounding like stand-
ins for popular cartoon personalities.
But for those who can suspend their reality long enough to read and enjoy the book, Jemmy and the Little Spider of Hope is an entertaining piece filled with wonder, adventure, and character that your little ones will love.
The stand-in for the tyrannical King Herod, the rat Hycanus the Wise, is terrifying as the central antagonist of the book, and his ferocious SPQR rats are an extension of this terror. On the other hand, comedy relief Cleo appears in the book like an oasis in the middle of the (Egyptian) desert and really brings the story to life after the events of the first chapter.
The three short chapters of Jemmy and the Little Spider of Hope are each divided by small illustrations designed to look like stained glass Egyptian drawings. These drawings give young readers a visual on what the characters look like, and vividly illustrate key events throughout the book.
The colors stem from the visual layout of the book, which at varying shades of brown isn’t much to look at, but the illustrations add pastel colors to the mix, enhancing the stained-glass approach of the book illustrator. This is pretty effective and is a trick used by big animation studios to enhance the appeal of otherwise odd-looking characters.
The story of Jemmy and the Little Spider of Hope is fairly easy to follow. There are no complicated plot points to trip up young readers, although there is a certain event that is sure to dismay readers. But it only serves to enhance the storybook and makes the entirety of the story poignant and resonant – a perfect tale to
read to children during the quiet of Christmas Eve.