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The Adventures of Sammy the Saver (books and music CD) Review by Donna Campos

Sam X. Renick
IllustratorJuan Alvarado
The "It's a Habit!" Company, Inc.
2238 Harwood Street
Los Angeles, CA 90031

Two books were included in this review: It's a Habit, Sammy Rabbit! and Will Sammy Ride the World's First Space Coaster? along with one music CD: "Mission 1, Celebrate Saving!" Each book is 28 pages long and includes a Parent Letter at the front and an activity/discussion page at the back. The mission of The "It's a Habit!" Company is presented as "Changing Children's Lives One Dime at a Time!" In an effort to change our nation's financial literacy problem, the company intends to start with the children by teaching them the concept of saving. The books are soft-cover with colorful illustrations and lively characters. Sammy, a young rabbit, goes through the process of learning how to save. The music CD includes 15 songs in a variety of music styles. The songs are fairly self-explanatory and are well done musically and fun for children in general. Additional items are now available through the website, including a 60-page Trainer's Guide and a standards-based set of 20 lesson plans designed for 2nd and 3rd graders.

Offered as books to be read by children of various ages, the books are ideal for second to fifth grade levels and adjustable to all ages. The program may be used within any educational environment, whether public, private, or homeschool. The stories and songs encourage children to save a dime from every dollar and stress making saving a habit. I was initially pleased to see the basic tithing principle of setting aside 10% introduced in these books, but I was quickly disappointed with no reference to saving for God or giving to others. Rather, the concept of "pay yourself first" was presented. The information in general is secular in nature and would have to be carefully used by parents in order to truly keep children on track regarding the responsible use of money.

In Will Sammy Ride the World's First Space Coaster? Sammy's saving enables him to help a friend at the end of the story. The story jumps a bit from the excitement the night before to being on the roller coaster a page later, which was a bit frustrating. Nevertheless, it was nice to read a story in which one character's discipline in saving eventually helped another. It's a Habit, Sammy Rabbit! presents a hungry little rabbit eating carrots to the point of being overly full, an adorable truth about over-indulgence for children today. It was disappointing, however, to see him use his new-found "secret" as a bribe to get his siblings to play with him; it was heart-breaking enough that the children refused to play with him. Later, he uses his savings to help the family in an emergency, and the author uses an understandable "emergency" that children can comprehend, which was good.

Musically, the CD is very enjoyable. We loved the song "Show Your Family the Way"--more for the possibilities it could represent than for the idea that a child should lead the entire family into saving habits. The song "Plan" was good for teaching children to plan for their dreams, but the lack of any reference to God was disappointing. "Change Adds Up" was well done and a cute song overall. However, there were too many other songs that were less than appropriate for our household. One song is actually titled "Anyone Can Be Rich" and states, "If it's riches that you want to create, just start saving early not late." The song "No Free Rides" included good lessons about a cost being hidden somewhere, even when a product claims to be free. But with the stressed "no exception to the rule" for everything in life, the eventual implication that our salvation has a cost for us somewhere keeps me from wanting to listen to any part of the song. A difficult concept for elementary school students to understand, the use of charge cards, is addressed in a song that includes the words "I owe, I owe, I owe." But the references to feeling like being in jail are far more than I want to put on my kids when teaching them that debt stinks, even though debt stinks! The kicker for me was the song "Lemonade Stand," as it went from siblings encouraging one another to work together to earn money to the concept of going to college to "increase our earning knowledge." I was stunned. Education is most definitely about gaining knowledge, but this song made it sound like learning how to gain money was the goal! I had several other people listen to the song to be sure it wasn't my imagination.  

Although, our children truly do need to learn how to handle finances correctly, "The 'It's a Habit!' Company, Inc." offers a less than stellar option for teaching young children. According to the website, it is being well received by public schools across the nation, but I do not believe children need to take the lead to teach families how to use money wisely. The necessity of properly handling money is placed firmly on parents, not children, and it is parents who should be modeling correct behavior and teaching these skills to children. If your family is seeking a really good program for teaching financial literacy, this isn't it.

Product review by Donna Campos, Senior Product Reviewer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, June 2008