All-of-a-Kind Fam­i­ly Uptown

Syd­ney Tay­lor; Mary Stevens, illus.
  • Review
By – March 30, 2015

They’re back: Ella, Hen­ny, Sarah, Char­lotte, Ger­tie, and Char­lie. Orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished in 1958, this third vol­ume in Syd­ney Taylor’s beloved All-of-a-Kind Fam­i­ly five-book series com­pris­es four­teen inter­con­nect­ed sto­ries. It’s 1917. The fam­i­ly has moved to the Bronx. They have new neigh­bors and face new adven­tures. Mama needs an oper­a­tion and Ella, the eldest, takes over the house­hold. Hen­ny bor­rows Ella’s par­ty dress and sneaks out with­out per­mis­sion. Char­lotte and Ger­tie try to make a Sab­bath meal. Sarah vies for the his­to­ry prize at school. Ella and her new friend and neigh­bor, Grace Healy, miss their young men who have enlist­ed to fight the Great War. Char­lotte real­izes she didn’t pay the fare on the sub­way on her way to Tan­ta Olga’s and tries to pay lat­er. Ella orga­nizes a Shavu­os play and Char­lie gets scared by Mr. Healy in a San­ta suit. 

The ques­tion that aris­es with the reprint of a clas­sic is whether it holds up to the test of time. While writ­ing style has cer­tain­ly evolved since Taylor’s time, the char­ac­ters remain endear­ing. The sto­ries pro­vide warm por­traits of a world one hun­dred years ago; they demon­strate the assim­i­la­tion of a fam­i­ly into a broad­er Amer­i­can fab­ric and authen­tic his­tor­i­cal con­text. A fore- word pro­vides back­ground. Each sto­ry includes orig­i­nal draw­ings and is mem­o­rable in its own way. Each read­er will have her own favorite. 

Based on the sto­ry, Home­com­ing,” all sev­en fam­i­ly mem­bers are present in a draw­ing on the cov­er of the book. Mama, how­ev­er, is missing. 

Rec­om­mend­ed for ages 9 – 12

Bar­bara Kras­ner is an award-win­ning poet and his­to­ri­an who focus­es her writ­ing on the Jew­ish expe­ri­ence in Amer­i­ca and dur­ing the Holo­caust. She teach­es in the his­to­ry depart­ment of The Col­lege of New Jer­sey and serves as Direc­tor, Mer­cer Holo­caust, Geno­cide & Human Rights Edu­ca­tion Center.

Discussion Questions