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Jewish American Heritage Month and the Sydney Taylor Book Award

List compiled by Kathe Pinchuck, Outgoing Chair, Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee

The All-of-a-Kind Family Series is a quintessential example of the Jewish America story. While many books which received the award named in Sydney Taylor’s memory are about immigrants from Eastern Europe who passed through Ellis Island and lived on the Lower East Side of New York City, the Jewish American experience includes unique rituals, challenges of combining traditional Jewish values with modern American life, and carving out an identity with which one is comfortable:

2010 Sydney Taylor Book Awards

Davies, Jacqueline. Lost. Tarrytown, New York: Marshall Cavendish, 2009. ISBN: 978-0761455356. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire provides the backdrop for this historical novel about friendship and loss. (Honor Award Winner for Teen Readers)

Friedman, Robin. The Importance of Wings. Watertown, Massachusetts: Charlesbridge Publishing, 2009. ISBN: 978-158-89330-5. The title of this coming-of-age novel refers to both the layered hairstyle Roxanne wants but cannot achieve with her straight locks, and what happens when an Israeli teen who wants to be more American discovers her inner beauty and self confidence with the help of a friend. (Award Winner for Older Readers)

Greene, Jacqueline Dembar. Rebecca Series (American Girl Collection). Illustrated by Robert Hunt. Middleton, Wisconsin: American Girl, 2009. ISBN: Various. The latest historical character lives on the Lower East Side in 1914, hopes to be an actress, and tries to balance an American way of life with traditional Jewish values. (Notable Books for Older Readers)

Hoberman, Mary Ann. Strawberry Hill. Illustrated by Wendy Anderson Halperin. New York: Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2009. ISBN: 978-0316041362. When her family moves from New Haven to Stamford, Allie Sherman has to adjust to making new friends, juggle alliances, and handle the disappointment that her new street, Strawberry Hill, is not the bucolic, strawberry-laden lane she had envisioned. (Notable Book for Older Readers)

Ostow, Micol. So Punk Rock (and Other Ways to Disappoint Your Mother). Art by David Ostow. Woodbury, Minnesota: Flux, 2009. ISBN: 978-0-7387-1471-4. The Ostows combine graphic novel vignettes filled with sarcastic commentary with a coming-of-age novel in which Ari Abramson is struggling to find his true calling and identity while also trying to fit in, hoping that playing a band will win him popularity and the girl of his dreams. (Notable Book for Teen Readers)

Tal, Eve Goldberg. Cursing Columbus. El Paso: Cinco Puntos Press, 2009. ISBN: 978-1-933693-59-0. Told in the duel voices of Raizel and Lemmel in alternating chapters and scenarios, Tal crafts a realistic and poignant picture of an immigrant family’s struggles in the early 20th century. (Notable Book for Teen Readers)

Wayland, April Halprin. New Year at the Pier: A Rosh Hashanah Story. Illustrations by Stéphane Jorisch. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2009. ISBN: 978-080373279-7. The author employs her own memories of community tashlich at the beach in this loving, charmingly illustrated description of Izzy and his family and friends as they gently apologize for misdeeds, grant forgiveness, and toss breadcrumbs into the sea as part of their Rosh Hashanah observance. (Award Winner for Younger Readers)

Weber, Elka. Yankee at the Seder. Illustrations by Adam Gustavson. Berkeley, California: Tricycle Press, 2009. ISBN: 978-1-58246-256-1. Based on a true tale, this beautifully illustrated story recounts the participation of a “Yankee Jew,” Myer Levy, as a guest at a Virginia Passover Seder shortly after the end of the Civil War. Ten-year-old Jacob sees the words of the Haggadah ring true, as all who are hungry are welcome at the table. (Honor Award Winner for Younger Readers)

Winter, Jonah. You Never Heard of Sandy Koufax? Illustrations by André Carrilho. New York: Schwartz & Wade Books, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, 2009. ISBN: 978-0375837388. Koufax's rise from a Jewish boy in Brooklyn to one of the all-time greats of baseball as a Los Angeles Dodger is told in conversational style by an imagined teammate. A lenticular cover and magnificent artwork brings the left-hander’s style to life. (Honor Award Winner for Younger Readers)

1968-2009 Sydney Taylor Book Awards


Blanc, Esther Silverstein. Berchick. Illus. by Tennessee Dixon. Volcano, CA: Volcano Press, 1989. ISBN: 0912078812. Homesteading in Wyoming in the early 1900's, a Jewish mother develops an unusual relationship with a colt she adopts named Berchick. (1989 Award Winner for Younger Readers)

Cohn, Janice. The Christmas Menorahs: How a Town Fought Hate. Illus. by Bill Farnsworth. Morton Grove, IL: Albert Whitman, 1995. ISBN: 0807511536 pbk. Describes how people in Billings, Montana joined together to fight a series of hate crimes against a Jewish family. (1995 Honor Award for Younger Readers)

Ducharme, Dede Fox. The Treasure in the Tiny Blue Tin. Fort Worth, TX: Texas Christian University Press, 1998. ISBN: 0875651801 pbk. In the early 1900’s in Texas, a twelve-year-old Jewish immigrant runs away to search for his father who he fears is sick, and he is joined on his dangerous journey by a prejudiced country boy. (1998 Honor Award for Older Readers)

Greene, Jacqueline Dembar. One Foot Ashore. New York: Walker and Company, 1994. ISBN: 0802776019 pbk. Arriving alone and destitute in Amsterdam in the spring of 1654, sixteen-year-old Maria Ben Lazar finds refuge and friendship in the household of the artist Rembrandt and continues to search for her parents and her younger sister. (1994 Honor Award for Older Readers)

Greene, Jacqueline Dembar. Out of Many Waters. New York: Walker, 1988. ISBN: 0802774016 pbk. Kidnapped from their parents during the Portuguese Inquisition and sent to work as slaves at a monastery in Brazil, two Jewish sisters attempt to make their way back to Europe to find their parents, but instead one becomes part of a group founding the first Jewish settlement in the United States. (1988 Honor Award for Older Readers)

Heller, Linda. The Castle On Hester Street. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1982. ISBN: 0827603231 pbk. Julie's grandmother deflates many of her husband's tall tales about their journey from Russia to America and their life on Hester Street. (1982 Award Winner for Younger Readers)

Heller, Linda. The Castle on Hester Street. Illustrated by Boris Kulikov. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2007. ISBN: 0689874340. A young girl visiting her grandparents learns the story of their immigration to the United States, their life on the Lower East Side of New York City, and how they met in this newly illustrated edition, winner of the Sydney Taylor Book Award when it was first released in 1982. (2008 Honor Award for Younger Readers)

Hesse, Karen. Brooklyn Bridge. New York: Feiwel & Friends, an imprint of Macmillan, 2008. ISBN: 9780312378868. While his family left the anti-Semitism of Russia to build the American dream, Joey Michtom’s dream is to visit the glittering Coney Island. Crafting a story from the spark of a true event, the invention of the Teddy Bear in 1903, Hesse masterfully weaves multiple themes of hard-work, survival, homelessness, and familial dedication. (2009 Award Winner for Older Readers)

Hest, Amy. Love You, Soldier. Illus. by Sonja Lamut. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press, 2000. ISBN: 0763609439.Katie, a Jewish girl living in New York City during World War II, sees many dynamic changes in her world as she ages from seven to ten waiting for her father to return from the war. (2000 Honor Award for Older Readers)

Hest, Amy. When Jessie Came Across the Sea. Illus. by P.J. Lynch. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press, 1997. ISBN: 076361274X pbk. A thirteen-year-old Jewish orphan reluctantly leaves her grandmother and immigrates to New York City, where she works for three years sewing lace and earning money to bring Grandmother to the United States, too. (1997 Honor Award for Younger Readers)

Krensky, Stephen. Hanukkah at Valley Forge. Illustrated by Greg Harlin. New York: Dutton Children’s Books, 2006. ISBN: 0525477381.
During the grim winter at Valley Forge, a Polish-born soldier tells General Washington about Hanukkah, who draws a parallel between the Macabbee’s war against their foes with the American war against the British oppressors. Beautiful watercolor illustrations add immeasurably to a delightful and inspirational account of this legendary encounter. (2007 Award Winner for Younger Readers)

Levitin, Sonia. Silver Days. New York: Atheneum, 1989. ISBN: 0689715706 pbk. In this sequel to Journey to America, the reunited Platt family works hard at settling in to America, but the spectre of the war in Europe continues to affect their lives. (1989 Honor Award for Older Readers)

Littman, Sarah. Confessions of a Closet Catholic. New York: Dutton Children’s Books, 2005. ISBN: 0525473653. Justine Silver struggles to balance her family’s expectations that she should be Jewish “but not too Jewish.” Frustrated, she follows a Catholic friend’s example by giving up Judaism for Lent, and thus begins a search for identity and belonging that will resonate with readers of all religions. (2005-2006 Award Winner for Older Readers)

Meyer, Carolyn. Drummers of Jericho. San Diego: Gulliver Books for Harcourt Brace, 1995. ISBN: 0152001905 pbk. A fourteen-year-old Jewish girl goes to live with her father and stepmother in a small town and soon finds herself the center of a civil rights battle when she objects to the high school band marching in the formation of a cross. (1995 Honor Award for Older Readers)

Michelson, Richard. As Good As Anybody: Martin Luther King, Jr. and Abraham Joshua Heschel’s Amazing March Toward Freedom. Illustrations by Raul Colon. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, 2008. ISBN: 9780375833359.
This fictionalized parallel biography of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, presents a beautiful and inspiring tribute to a little known alliance in American history. Colon’s stunning illustrations with subtle coloring bring the text, and the message of persistence, justice, and brotherhood, to life. (2009 Award Winner for Younger Readers)

Moskin, Marietta. Waiting for Mama. New York: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, 1975. ISBN: 0698203194. A Russian immigrant family living in New York in the early 1900's prepares for the long-awaited arrival of their mother and baby sister. (1975 Award Winner)

Napoli, Donna Jo. The King of Mulberry Street. New York: Wendy Lamb Books/Random House, 2005. ISBN: 0385746539. This powerful historical novel about an Italian-Jewish immigrant child reveals to readers that just 100 years ago, children as young as eight came to this country alone, with nothing but their wits and good luck to help them survive. (2005-2006 Honor Award for Older Readers)

Olswanger, Anna. Shlemiel Crooks. Illus. by Paula Goodman Koz. Montgomery, AL: Junebug Books, 2005. ISBN: 158838165X. Told with Yiddish inflected English, sprinkled with familiar Jewish curses and words, Anna Olswanger elaborates on the true story of the attempted robbery of her great-grandfather’s saloon in St. Louis in 1919. (2005-2006 Honor Award for Younger Readers)

Polacco, Patricia. The Keeping Quilt. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1988. ISBN: 0689844476 pbk. A homemade quilt ties together the lives of four generations of an immigrant Jewish family, remaining a symbol of their enduring love and faith. (1988 Award Winner for Younger Readers)

Rael, Elsa Okon. Rivka’s First Thanksgiving. Illus. by Maryann Kovalski. New York: Margaret K. McElderry/Simon & Schuster, 2001. ISBN: 0689839014. Having heard about Thanksgiving in school, nine-year-old Rivka tries to convince her immigrant family and her Rabbi that it is a holiday for all Americans, Jews and non-Jews alike. (2001 Award Winner for Younger Readers)

Rael, Elsa Okon. When Zaydeh Danced on Eldridge Street. Illus. by Marjorie Priceman. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 1997. ISBN: 0689804512.
While staying with her grandparents in New York City in the mid-1930’s, eight-year-old Zeesie joins in the celebration of Simchat Torah and sees a different side of her stern grandfather. (1997 Award Winner for Younger Readers)

Rosen, Sybil. Speed of Light. New York: Anne Schwartz Book/Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 1999. ISBN: 0689841515 pbk. An eleven-year-old Jewish girl living in the South during the 1950s struggles with the anti-Semitism and racism which pervade her small community. (1999 Award Winner for Older Readers)

Rosenblum, Richard. Journey to the Golden Land. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1992. ISBN: 082760405X. Having left oppressive czarist Russia in search of better living conditions, Benjamin and his family endure the difficult journey and land at Ellis Island to start a new life in America. (1992 Honor Award for Younger Readers)

Rosenblum, Richard. The Old Synagogue. Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society, 1989. ISBN: 0827603223. A once-beautiful synagogue on a crowded street in a big city is abandoned and becomes a factory when the original neighborhood inhabitants become more prosperous and move away; but as time goes by young Jewish families rediscover the area, move in, and restore to beauty the old synagogue. (1989 Honor Award for Younger Readers)

Schuman, Burt E. Chanukah on the Prairie. Illus. by Rosalind Charney Kaye. New York: UAHC Press, 2002. ISBN: 080740814X. After the Zalcman family immigrates to Grand Forks, North Dakota, they are welcomed by the local Jewish community and celebrate their first Chanukah on the prairie. (2003 Honor Award for Younger Readers)

Snyder, Carol. Ike and Mama and the Block Wedding. New York: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, 1979. ISBN: 0698204611. Rosie Weinstein is getting married on Sunday but not without a little help from the residents of East 136th Street. (1979 Award Winner)

Snyder, Carol. Ike and Mama and the Seven Surprises. New York: Lothrop, Lee and Shepard, 1985. ISBN: 0688037321. Ike is very skeptical when his mother promises that he will have seven surprises in the month before his Bar Mitzvah, especially, with his father still hospitalized with tuberculosis and a newly-arrived, jobless cousin living in their small apartment. (1985 Award Winner for Older Readers)

Sugarman, Brynn Olenberg. Rebecca’s Journey Home. Illustrated by Michelle Shapiro. Minneapolis: Kar-Ben Publishing, Inc., 2006. ISBN: 1580131573. The story of a Jewish-American family who adopts a child from Vietnam is recounted with warmth and sensitivity from the adoption procedure and the trip to Asia to the baby’s first Shabbat with her new family and her conversion and naming ceremony. (2007 Honor Award for Younger Readers)

Wolf, Ferida. Pink Slippers, Bat Mitzvah Blues. Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society, 1989. ISBN: 0827605315 pbk. Thirteen-year-old Alyssa tries to balance the conflicting demands of ballet training with finding her place as a Jew in today's world. (1989 Honor Award for Older Readers)

Yolen, Jane. Naming Liberty. Paintings by Jim Burke. New York: Philomel Books, an imprint of Penguin, 2008. ISBN: 9780399242502. Parallel stories tell the arrival of two young ladies to the United States - Gitl, the daughter of a Russian family, who decide to emigrate to avoid the pogroms and persecution of Czarist Russia and the Statue of Liberty, conceived and developed by the young French artist Frederic Auguste Bartholdi as a commemoration for America’s centennial birthday. Illustrations in counterpart oil paint panels reflect the 19th century Eastern European village against the more modern cities of Paris and New York. (2009 Honor Award for Younger Readers)

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