Sammy Spider's First Bar Mitzvah

  • Interest Level: Preschool - Grade 3
  • Reading Level: Grade 2

Josh’s cousin Ben is having his bar mitzvah, and Sammy accidentally ends up coming along! He gets an up-close view of the Torah readings, the blessings . . . and one tradition that gets this silly little spider into even more trouble than usual.

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Interest Level Preschool - Grade 3
Reading Level Grade 2
Genre Picture Books
Copyright 2016
Publisher Lerner Publishing Group
Imprint Kar-Ben Publishing ®
Language English
Number of Pages 32
Publication Date 2016-08-01
Text Type Fiction
BISACS JUV039020, JUV033020
Dewey [E]
Graphics Full-color illustrations
Dimensions 8.625 x 11
Lexile 680
Features Reviewed

Author: Sylvia A. Rouss

Sylvia A. Rouss is an award-winning author and early childhood educator, and the creator of the popular Sammy Spider series, celebrating its 25th anniversary with over half a million Sammy Spider books sold. She lives in California.

Illustrator: Katherine Janus Kahn

Katherine Janus Kahn studied Fine Arts at the Bezalel School in Jerusalem and at the University of Iowa. She has illustrated many children's books including Kar-Ben's popular Sammy Spider series. She lives in Wheaton, Maryland.


Jewish Book Council

“Everyone’s favorite little spider is back with a new adventure and a new topic with which to educate young readers and listeners about Jewish life and culture. This latest escapade lands him at Josh’s cousin’s bar mitzvah where he watches the proceedings with great interest. He learns, as does the reader, about the synagogue rituals, both religious, such as the Torah reading, and fun, such as tossing candy in the direction of the bar mitzvah celebrant. As many very young children have never seen a bar mitzvah up close, this is a good topic for the age group. As usual, Sammy flirts with danger but is saved before disaster strikes and he returns at the end to his mother and his web to prepare (we hope) for further adventures.

This is the seventeenth book in the by now iconic series featuring endearing Sammy, his wise mother and the traditional Shapiro family. Katherine Janus Kahn’s bright, bold, cheery pictures evoke smiles and combine with Sylvia Rouss’ clever plots and clear to-the-point story-telling to meld into excellent picture book unity. The reader knows what to expect, can chant familiar lines, and is never disappointed but always comes away learning something new.

Recommended for ages 5 – 8.”—Jewish Book Council


“Josh’s family is invited to cousin Ben’s bar mitzvah, and as usual, Sammy Spider is curious. The sentient arachnid manages to stow away, first in the family’s tallit bag and later in Mr. Shapiro’s jacket pocket,
providing Sammy (and readers) with a close-up view of all the proceedings. Sammy describes the prayers, singing, carrying of and reading from the Torah that he observes, as well as the congregation joyfully
showering Ben with small candies to wish him a sweet life filled with Torah and good deeds. Rouss’ well-established series has become the go-to source for introducing Jewish holidays and customs to the very
young. Kahn’s collage artwork hits just the right note for the intended audience—colorful, fun, and uncluttered, while staying informative and respectful in tone. As well, this fills a niche for this age group, and the emphasis on religious significance rather than partying will please observant families. Pair this with Isabel Pinson’s Bubbe’s Belated Bat Mitzvah (2014) to complete the celebration.”―Booklist

School Library Journal

“Sammy, the cute, curious spider in this long-running series, has celebrated all of the Jewish holidays, gone to school with Josh Shapiro, learned about Jewish values, and traveled to Israel. In this installment, he sneaks into Mr. Shapiro’s tallit bag (the small, zippered velvet bag he uses to carry his prayer shawl and kippah to synagogue) to attend Josh’s cousin Ben’s bar mitzvah. When the Shapiros arrive at the synagogue, Sammy crawls out of the bag and into a large bowl of candy just as Mr. Shapiro grabs a handful. Sammy clings to a piece of candy in Mr. Shapiro’s pocket and watches the bar mitzvah boy receive his own prayer shawl, open the ark, and chant from the Torah. At the conclusion of the service, everyone throws the candy at Ben so that he will have ‘a sweet life filled with Torah and good deeds.’ Sammy flies through the air with the candy and luckily is picked up by Josh and safely (and miraculously!) returned home to Mrs. Spider. The bright cut-paper illustrations, typical of the series, help to depict a contemporary Jewish synagogue during this important life cycle event. A brief paragraph with additional information is appended. VERDICT Schools and libraries where the Sammy Spider books are popular will welcome this latest addition, which could also be helpful in preparing a young child who is attending a bar or bat mitzvah ceremony for the first time.– School Library Journal, Rachel Kamin, North Suburban Synagogue Beth El, Highland Park, IL