The importance of deeds in measuring the value of each individual is presented with fetching warmth and action in a new picture book by Sylvia Rouss, of Sammy Spider fame. She retells the popular midrash in which a little spider saves David’s life before he becomes king. Akavish stops David, a shepherd
boy, from flinging a stone at his web, and David gains a new appreciation for the spider’s work. Later that night in a storm, he rescues Akavish, who gratefully promises to return the favor. David doubts that the little spider can ever help him. Years later, however, when he is being pursued by soldiers of the jealous King Saul, David seeks refuge in a cave. The soldiers stop at the entrance, but seeing an unbroken web across the mouth of the cave, move on, believing no one could have entered without breaking the web.
In most tellings of this story, David initially questions God about what use the spider’s web is to anyone. Rouss does not mention God in her variant, but David, once he is king, holds onto the same appreciation for the worth of a creature who returns kindness, no matter what its size. This tale for younger children
surprisingly appears mostly in collections, unaccompanied by illustration. Happily, Rouss and Binus’s teamwork solves the problem. Colorful paintings fit each turn in the story, filling full pages with three-dimensional, large-eyed poppet figures, expression, and motion.
Recommended for ages 4 – 8.
Sharon Elswit, author of The Jewish Story Finder, now resides in San Francisco, where she has been helping students visiting 826 Valencia locations around the city to write stories and poems and getting adults up and retelling Jewish folktales to share with their own spin.