Children’s

Ella of All-of-a-Kind Family

Syd­ney Tay­lor; Meryl Ros­ner, illus.; June Cum­mins, fwd.
  • Review
January 26, 2016

Here are the last two books of the All-of-a- Kind Fam­i­ly series. Inter­est­ing­ly, the Down­town sto­ry, though the fourth book pub­lished, is actu­al­ly the sec­ond set of adven­tures, chrono­log­i­cal­ly speak­ing. Accord­ing to the fas­ci­nat­ing intro­duc­tion to this book (writ­ten by June Cum­mins, who is at work on a Syd­ney Tay­lor biog­ra­phy), the book was delayed because it tack­les dif­fi­cult issues, which were not nec­es­sar­i­ly appeal­ing to the pub­lish­ers. The grit­ty real­i­ties of life on the Low­er East Side — pover­ty, ill­ness, the hard­ships faced by new­ly arrived immi­grants — are front and cen­ter in this book, in the char­ac­ters of Gui­do, a young boy with no father and a very sick moth­er, and Miss Carey, a nurse at the set­tle­ment house. But read­ers look­ing for the light­ness of the oth­er titles will not be dis­ap­point­ed. From a Purim play, to danc­ing in the streets to the organ grinder’s tunes, to the bliss of blintz-eat­ing, to the year­ly build­ing of the sukkah, this is a fam­i­ly who gets plea­sure out of every day. 

The old­est sis­ter, Ella, gets her own book in Ella of All-of-a-Kind Fam­i­ly. Again, thanks to the intro­duc­tion, we learn that the author’s orig­i­nal plan was for each sib­ling even­tu­al­ly to star in his or her own book. Alas, Tay­lor died before she could accom­plish this, leav­ing read­ers able only to imag­ine what might have been in store for the oth­er sis­ters. In this last book, Ella is a young woman torn between her desire for a per­form­ing career and her love for Jules, new­ly returned from a stint as a sol­dier in World War I. Even twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry read­ers will find a lot to pon­der in the choic­es Ella must make as she fig­ures out what she wants in life. And, of course, we are treat­ed to the usu­al fam­i­ly fun — hair­cuts gone wrong, stu­dent elec­tions (a girl is run­ning for office for the first time!), and vaude­ville is in full swing. If the series had to end, this is a love­ly book to go out on. 

High­ly rec­om­mend­ed for ages 4 – 10. These books still set the stan­dard for great Jew­ish writ­ing for children.

Discussion Questions