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Katherine Janus Kahn (1942–) Biography

Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights

Born 1942, in Washington, DC; Education: University of Chicago, A.B., 1964; attended Bezalel School of Art, 1967–68; attended Corcoran School of Art, 1968; University of Iowa, M.A., 1970; attended Montgomery College, 1985–90. Religion: Jewish.


Agent—c/o Author Mail, Kar-Ben Publishing, 11430 Strand Dr., No. 2, Rockville, MD 20852-4371.


Painter, sculptor, illustrator, and educator. National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, exhibits technician, 1962; U.S. Information Agency, Washington, DC, visual information specialist, 1964–67; Institute of Modern Languages, Washington, DC, art director, 1970–73; Maryland College of Art and Design, Silver Spring, instructor, 1986–87. Part-time and freelance positions in clude Center for Science in the Public Interest, illustrator, 1970–73; WETA-TV, illustrator of animated television programs, including The Wizard of Earthsea, 1973–76, 1985–86; WTTG-TV, courtroom illustrator, 1977–78. Exhibitions: Exhibitor in shows, including those sponsored by Pan American Health Organization, Washington, DC; Montgomery College, Montgomery County, MD; and Rockville Civic Mansion, Rockville, MD.


Children's Book Guild, Woman's Honorary Society (University of Chicago), Nu Pi Sigma.

Honors Awards

Golden Hugo Award, Chicago International Film Festival, 1975, for animated television program The Wizard of Earthsea.



Alef Is One: An Alphabet Counting Book, Kar-Ben Copies (Rockville, MD), 1989.


Seymour Rossel, Journey through Jewish History, edited by Neil Kozodoy, Behrman House (New York, NY), Volume 1, 1981, Volume 2, 1983.

Miriam Schlein, Hanukah, Behrman House (New York, NY), 1983.

Miriam Schlein, Passover, Behrman House (New York, NY), 1983.

Evelyn Zusman, The Passover Parrot, Kar-Ben Copies (Rockville, MD), 1983.

Eileen Bluestone Sherman, The Odd Potato, Kar-Ben Copies (Rockville, MD), 1984.

Ruth Esrig Brinn, More Let's Celebrate, Kar-Ben Copies (Rockville, MD), 1984.

Howard Cushnir, The Secret Spinner, Kar-Ben Copies (Rockville, MD), 1985.

Erwin and Agnes Herman, The Yanov Torah, Kar-Ben Copies (Rockville, MD), 1985.

Carol Levin, A Rosh Hashanah Walk, Kar-Ben Copies (Rockville, MD), 1987.

Ellie Gellman, Tamar's Sukkah, Kar-Ben Copies (Rockville, MD), 1988.

Rosalind Schilder, Dayenu; or, How Uncle Murray Saved the Seder, Kar-Ben Copies (Rockville, MD), 1988.

My Play-a-Tune Book of Jewish Songs, JTG of Nashville (Nasville, TN), 1988.

Varda Cohen-Grauman, Yesh Lanu Lamah, Behrman House (New York, NY), Volume 1, 1989, Volume 2, 1993.

Shoshana Silberman, The Whole Megilla (Almost), Kar-Ben Copies (Rockville, MD), 1990.

Harriet K. Feder, Judah Who Always Said, No!, Kar-Ben Copies (Rockville, MD), 1990.

M. Lev, The Magic Faucet, Antroll Publishers (Burlington, VT), 1991.

Mindy Avra Portnoy, Matzah Ball: A Passover Story, Kar-Ben Copies (Rockville, MD), 1994.

Miriam Ramsfelder Levin, In the Beginning, Kar-Ben Copies (Rockville, MD), 1996.

Judyth Groner and Madeline Wikler, Make Your Own Megallah: The Story of Purim, Kar-Ben Copies (Rockville, MD), 1998.

Jacqueline Jules, Once upon a Shabbos, Kar-Ben Copies (Rockville, MD), 1998.

Judy Silverman, Rosie and the Mole, Pitspopany Press (New York, NY), 1999.

Judye Groner, You Can Do a Mitzvah, Kar-Ben Copies (Rockville, MD), 1999.

Jacqueline Jules, The Hardest Word: A Yom Kippur Story, Kar-Ben Copies (Rockville, MD), 2001.

Tami Lehman-Wilzig, Tasty Bible Stories: A Menu of Tales and Matching Recipes, Kar-Ben Publishing (Minneapolis, MN), 2003.

Jacqueline Jules, Noah and the Ziz, Kar-Ben Publishing (Minneapolis, MN), 2005.

Jacqueline Jules, The Ziz and the Hanukkah Miracle, Kar-Ben Publishing (Minneapolis, MN), 2006.

Contributor of illustrations to various periodicals, including Defenders of Wildlife, Smithsonian, and Washington Post.


Ellie Gellman, It's Chanukah!, Kar-Ben Copies (Rockville, MD), 1985.

Ellie Gellman, It's Rosh-Hashanah!, Kar-Ben Copies (Rockville, MD), 1985.

Myra Shostak, Rainbow Candles: A Chanukah Counting Book, Kar-Ben Copies (Rockville, MD), 1986.

Judye Groner and Madeline Wikler, Let's Build a Succah, Kar-Ben Copies (Rockville, MD), 1986.

Judye Groner and Madeline Wikler, The Purim Parade, Kar-Ben Copies (Rockville, MD), 1986.

Judye Groner and Madeline Wikler, My First Seder, Kar-Ben Copies (Rockville, MD), 1986.

Susan Remick Topek, Israel Is …, Kar-Ben Copies (Rockville, MD), 1988.

Judye Groner and Madeline Wikler, The Shofar Calls to Us, Kar-Ben Copies (Rockville, MD), 1991.


Sylvia A. Rouss, Sammy Spider's First Hanukkah, Kar-Ben Copies (Rockville, MD), 1993.

Sylvia A. Rouss, Sammy Spider's First Passover, Kar-Ben Copies (Rockville, MD), 1995.

Sylvia A. Rouss, Sammy Spider's First Rosh Hashannah, Kar-Ben Copies (Rockville, MD), 1996.

Sylvia A. Rouss, Sammy Spider's First Shabbat, Kar-Ben Copies (Rockville, MD), 1997.

Sylvia A. Rouss, Sammy Spider's First Tu B'Shevat, Kar-Ben Copies (Rockville, MD), 2000.

Sylvia A. Rouss, Sammy Spider's First Purim, Kar-Ben Copies (Rockville, MD), 2000.

Sylvia A. Rouss, Sammy Spider's First Trip to Israel: A Book about the Five Senses, Kar-Ben Copies (Rockville, MD), 2002.

Sylvia A. Rouss, Sammy Spider's First Sukkot, Kar-Ben Publishing (Minneapolis, MN), 2004.


Shoshano Silberman, A Family Haggadah, Kar-Ben Copies (Rockville, MD), 1987.

Judith Z. Abrams, Selichot: A Family Service, Kar-Ben Copies (Rockville, MD), 1990.

Judith Z. Abrams, Yom Kippur: A Family Service, Kar-Ben Copies (Rockville, MD), 1990.

Judith Z. Abrams, Shabbat: A Family Service, Kar-Ben Copies (Rockville, MD), 1992.

Judith Z. Abrams, Sukkot: A Family Seder, Kar-Ben Copies (Rockville, MD), 1993.

Judith Z. Abrams, Simchat Torah: A Family Service, Kar-Ben Copies (Rockville, MD), 1995.

Judith Z. Abrams, Rosh Hashanah: A Family Service, Kar-Ben Copies (Rockville, MD), 1999.


Hanukkah Fun for Little Hands, Kar-Ben Copies (Rockville, MD), 1991.

Passover Fun for Little Hands, Kar-Ben Copies (Rockville, MD), 1991.

Shabbat Fun for Little Hands, Kar-Ben Copies (Rockville, MD), 1992.

Ruth Esrig Brinn, with Judye Groner and Madeline Wikler, Jewish Holiday Crafts for Little Hands, Kar-Ben Copies (Rockville, MD), 1993.

Purim Fun for Little Hands, Kar-Ben Copies (Rockville, MD), 1994.


Katherine Janus Kahn is a painter, sculptor, and illustrator. Since beginning her work as an illustrator in the early 1980s, she has specialized in works focusing on Jewish culture and traditions. The picture books, board books, and activity books Kahn has created for young children include the "Sammy Spider" stories written by Sylvia A. Rouss. Beginning with Sammy Spider's First Hanukkah the series presents preschoolers with an engaging introduction to Jewish traditions by taking the point of view of a spider living in the Shapiro family's home. Kahn's brightly colored collage illustrations for the "Sammy Spider" series have been praised by several reviewers, a Publishers Weekly reviewer comparing them to the work of Eric Carle. School Library Journal writer Amy Kellman wrote that in Sammy Spider's First Trip to Israel: A Book about the Five Senses Kahn's artwork is actually "stronger than the text" of the story. Commenting on Kahn's work for Once upon a Shabbos, a story by Jacqueline Jules, a Publishers Weekly contributor noted that the illustrator's "deep-hued paintings … sustain the playful, warm mood of fantasy," while Kahn's work for Mindy Avra Pornoy's Matzah Ball: A Passover Story was described by another Publishers Weekly critic as "warmly colored illustrations [that] will gladden" young readers.

Kahn once told SATA: "In 1967 I was twenty-four years old and working in Washington, DC, for the U.S. Information Agency in their exhibits division. Although I had always loved to make art, college had awakened other interests and I really wasn't doing much art, nor had I done any to speak of in college. Although I worked with designers in my job, I was actually doing photographic research. There was a vague, unconscious need eating at me.

"There was also a desire to reconnect with my Judaism, and indeed to find out more about it. In June 1967, sudden war broke out between Israel and her neighbors. My roommate was glued to the television set, but I hadn't made the connection for myself yet. In fact, I had begun to think about the Peace Corps, which was very much a part of the thinking of young people at the time. But the connection was there, and obvious; when a friend suggested that I should go to Israel as a volunteer, it immediately struck me as being right. The war was over in an amazing six days, but it wasn't until August that the first airplanes again began flying between the United States and Israel. In those three months, I had done the necessary paper work to leave my job in Washington and become a volunteer in Israel. I was on the plane without a word of Hebrew, and with one small suitcase which held what were to be the three most significant pencils I have ever bought, one eraser, and one table of drawing paper.

"There were many volunteers on that plane, and many more already there from all over the world. I was put with other English speakers and sent down to the Negev Desert to be a part of an archeological dig. We worked out under the hot desert sun all day for a month, and we didn't find any artifacts at all, but I loved it. Months later, I spent a few days digging at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, and we found Roman glass and coins.

"From the Negev we were moved to a kibbutz in the Galilee, where I helped harvest olives. That was a wonderful kind of work, out in the olive orchards, with gentle breezes and the shade of the olive trees as protection from the sun. It was quiet work and we talked a great deal. And after work, I drew and drew and didn't stop drawing—not the scenery, which was beautiful, but the other volunteers—portrait after portrait.

"When we had finished the olive harvest and the grapefruit harvest (harder, because it was already the beginning of the rainy season), they asked me if I would like to go to Bezalel, the art school in Jerusalem. I jumped at the opportunity. Jerusalem was a gorgeous, heady place to be. The city was finally united, and for the first time since 1948, Jews were allowed back into the Old City, where two mosques occupied the Temple Mount and the Wailing Wall itself. The student quarters for the school were overlooking a beautiful, but deserted, Arab village in the valley right below us. My friends and I wandered it endlessly, and I was slowly learning Hebrew. I shopped and cooked. And I was drawing and painting and sculpting. I even started illustrating for the Volunteer.

"To make this pivotal year complete, I met an American who was an Orthodox Jew, and he and his family took me in, teaching me the daily rituals of living as a Jew. This has informed my life from then until now. I draw most of my inspiration from the wealth of my religion, getting both subject matter and understanding from the Torah and the cycles of the Jewish year.

"I have built my life around what I learned in the year of August 1967 to August 1968."

Biographical and Critical Sources


Publishers Weekly, November 8, 1991, review of The Shofar Calls to Us, p. 63; September 20, 1993, review of Sammy Spider's First Hanukkah, p. 32; March 28, 1994, review of Matzah Ball: A Passover Story, p. 97; March 20, 1995, review of Sammy Spider's First Passover, p. 59; January 25, 1999, review of Once upon a Shabbos, p. 89.

School Library Journal, October, 1993, p. 47; July, 1995, Marcia W. Posner, review of Sammy Spider's First Passover, p. 68; May, 1997, Libby K. White, review of Sammy Spider's First Rosh Hashanah, p. 113; August, 2001, Martha Link, review of Sammy Spider's First Tu B'Shevat, p. 160; December, 2002, Amy Kellman, review of Sammy Spider's First Trip to Israel, p. 107.


JBooks.com, http://www.jbooks.com/ (January 3, 2006), Gershom Gorenberg, "Waiter, There's a Spider in My Sukkah."

Katherine Janus Kahn Home Page, http://www.katherinejanuskahn.com (January 3, 2006).

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: Dan Jacobson Biography - Dan Jacobson comments: to Barbara Knutson (1959–2005) Biography - Personal