Review: Sammy Spider's First ABC

Sammy Spider's First ABC

by Sylvia A. Rouss, illustrated by Katherine Janus Kahn

Kar-Ben Publishing (imprint of Lerner Publishing Group), 2022

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Emily Roth

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From apple to mitzvot, the latest entry in the Sammy Spider series provides a lovely introduction to the English alphabet. Each page features a new letter and an accompanying Jewish concept, as Sammy Spider and his friend Josh celebrate holidays, visit the synagogue, and eat a lot of delicious food. Sammy Spider's First ABC can be read as a straightforward alphabet book for little ones, but the humorous and insightful asides from Sammy Spider on each page make this a satisfying read aloud for older kids as well. Eclectic, collage-style illustrations create a pleasing contrast to the simplicity of the text.

Each concept in the book is presented by a rhyming couplet, and as a result the text only provides a very basic overview of each concept presented. Some of the concepts ("up" and "vase" in particular) are only loosely related to Judaism and therefore feel like missed opportunities for further learning. However, fun details in the illustrations, such as a Shabbat blessing woven into Sammy's web, ensure that readers will notice, and hopefully learn, something new each time they revisit the book.

As a whole, Sammy Spider's First ABC is a wonderful tool for children who are first learning their ABCs, and it will also be enjoyed by children who are ready to dive a little deeper into a variety of Jewish topics.
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Reviewer Emily Roth (she/her/hers) is a youth services librarian, avid reader, and lifelong Midwesterner. Her short fiction has been published by The Masters Review, Reflex Fiction, Exposition Review, and others. She lives in Chicago with her rescue dog, Obie.