October 16, 2018

ArtsThe Year’s Best Jewish Children’s Books

Last month,the Association of Jewish Libraries announced the winners of its Sydney Taylor Award for this year’s most distinguished contributions to Jewish children’s literature. AJL’s award committee chose a holiday story and a mesmerizing collection of legends as the finest of the 70 books submitted by Jewish and secular publishers in the 1997 publishing season. Winners are the picture book, “When Zaydeh Danced on Eldridge Street” in the younger reader division and the anthology, “The Mysterious Visitor” in the older reader division. Honor books are “When Jessie Came Across the Sea” and “I Have Lived A Thousand Years”. Author Barbara Diamond Goldin won the Body of Work award.

The annual awards include a cash prize from the estate of popular children’s author Sydney Taylor of All-of-a-kind-Family series fame. Publishers add a gold foil winner’s seal to the book jacket. Winning authors and illustrators will receive their awards on June 23rd in Philadelphia at AJL’s national convention banquet.

“When Zaydeh Danced On Eldridge Street,” written by Elsa Rael, illustrated by Marjorie Priceman, is a Simchat Torah story about the tension between a bright little girl and her fearsomely stern grandfather.

“The Mysterious Visitor: Stories of the Prophet Elijah” by Nina Jaffe, illustrated by Elivia Savadier, Jaffe chose Elijah legends from a wide range of geographical origins. Her charming versions brim with the oral quality expected in folklore.

Two honors reflect the diversity in Jewish children’s literature. “When Jessie Came Across the Sea,” by Amy Hest, illustrated by P.J. Lynch and published by Candlewick Press, recounts how a Jewish orphan maid makes her way in the wide world from shtetl to America.

The older reader’s honor book is “I Have Lived A Thousand Years: Growing Up in the Holocaust” by Livia Bitton-Jackson, published by Simon & Schuster. Vivid laughter describes a searing personal experience during the gory final year of the Holocaust when Bitton-Jackson, a Czechoslovakian Jew, was sent to concentration camps.

Barbara Diamond Goldin won the Body of Work Award for significant contribution to Jewish juvenile literature. Her primary picture books include original holiday tales which range from humorous to bittersweet and her older children’s books encourage understanding of observance and ethics. She won a 1991 Sydney Taylor Award for her Purim picture book, “Cakes and Miracles.” Goldin’s consistently commendable and recommendable books combine talented writing, solid research, personal commitment and deep caring about young Jewish readers.

These books are available at your synagogue, religious or day school libraries. For more information, contact Awards Chair Ellen Cole at Temple Isaiah’s Levine Library or Abigail Yasgur, director of the Jewish Community Library. — Staff Report

When Zaydeh Danced On Eldridge Street, written by Elsa Rael and illustrated by Marjorie Priceman, is the winner of the Sydney Taylor Award in the younger reader division.