Like many Jewish little girls — and, no doubt, many non-Jewish ones — I read the ALL OF A KIND FAMILY books cover to cover, over and over. So I was especially pleased to see Melanie Rehak’s essay on the books, and the author Sydney Taylor, over at Nextbook:
The secret of her books’ success, of course, lies in the truth that
while they are steeped in Jewish culture and ritual, and serve as
loving documents of a time and place now lost to a wave of trendy bars
and boutiques, they also transcend it. They are deeply Jewish, but they
are also about that great universal: childhood. The five sisters, and
the brother who eventually joins them, get scared on the playground
swings, lose their library books, and get in trouble with their
parents. They even, in Ella’s case, have crushes on boys (her romance
with Jules Roth, who takes her to eat in her very first restaurant and
later goes off to fight in Europe, remains, in my opinion, one of the
great literary love affairs though I’m willing to admit my judgment may
be clouded by nostalgia).
Rehak further adds that what really makes the books endure as long as they have is that “they tell readers, over and over again, that not having enough of some
things in life—money, space, clothing—is more than made up for by
having plenty of another thing, namely, the love of your family.” Damn right.