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.