All-of-a-Kind Family facts for kids
|Publisher||Follett Publishing Company|
|Followed by||More All-of-a-Kind Family|
All-of-a-Kind Family is a 1951 children's book by Sydney Taylor about a family of five American Jewish girls growing up on the Lower East Side of New York City in 1912. It was followed by four sequels.
All-of-a-Kind Family is based on Sydney Taylor's recollections of her childhood on Manhattan's Lower East Side, where her family settled along with many other Jewish families after migrating from Eastern Europe by way of Germany. The main characters are named for Taylor's real-life sisters, Ella, Henny, Charlotte, and Gertrude, and the middle sister was given the author's birth name, Sarah.
The book's genesis was stories of her childhood that Taylor would tell her daughter, Jo. Taylor wrote:
"I took my daughter Jo down to the old neighborhood where Papa, Mama and the five little girls had lived. But the past was dead there; it lived only in me. I decided to write it all down for Jo. Perhaps in this way I could re-create for both of us some feeling of that other life."
While Taylor wrote All-of-a-Kind Family for her daughter, by some accounts she had no plans to publish the story. But, the story goes, her husband secretly submitted the manuscript for the Charles W. Follett Award in 1951, and it won, launching Taylor's career and what would become a five-book series.
The book is noteworthy for its depiction of a joint Jewish American identity, with the characters expressing both pride in their Jewish traditions and American patriotism, following the trajectory of Taylor's own family's assimilation. "Not only are Jewish customs explained honestly and frankly, but Taylor makes them attractive and positive, drawing in her readers, both Jewish and non-Jewish," the scholar June Cummins writes.
Ella, Henny, Sarah, Charlotte, and Gertrude are five sisters growing up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in 1912. The book follows them through a year of their childhood, as they deal with mundane chores, find joy in eating candy in bed and collecting used books from their father's junk shop, recover from scarlet fever, and celebrate Jewish holidays such as Purim and Sukkot as well as the Fourth of July. They also inadvertently help their father's friend Charlie solve a mystery from his past and, in the end, welcome a new family member.
- Ella: The oldest of the five sisters, at age 12.
- Henny: The second sister, age 10.
- Sarah: The middle sister, and the author's avatar. Age 8.
- Charlotte: The younger sister with her head in the clouds, age 6.
- Gertie: The youngest of the five sisters, age 4.
- Mama: The girls' mother, a resourceful homemaker.
- Papa: The girls' father, who runs a junk shop.
- Kathy Allen: A librarian at the local library who befriends the girls.
- Charlie: Papa's friend, a junk peddler with a mysterious past.
Taylor followed All-of-a-Kind Family with four sequels: More All-of-a-Kind Family, All-of-a-Kind Family Uptown, All-of-a-Kind Family Downtown, and Ella of All-of-a-Kind Family. The final book was published shortly after Taylor's death in 1978.
Awards and legacy
Taylor received the Charles W. Follett Award for All-of-a-Kind Family's contribution to children's literature in 1951. All-of-a-Kind Family was also the first recipient of the Jewish Book Council's National Jewish Book Award for children's literature in 1952. The book is considered foundational to the development of American Jewish children's literature, and the Association of Jewish Libraries' annual children's literature award is named the Sydney Taylor Book Award in honor of Taylor's work. The publisher Lizzie Skurnick, who reissued the All-of-a-Kind sequels, describes Taylor's depiction of American Jewish life as "completely singular. They’re the first series about a Jewish family ever, one that’s not only about the family, but about Jewish culture, New York, the turn of the century, vaudeville, polio, the rise of technology."
All-of-a-Kind Family Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.