As I child, did I love Sydney Taylor’s All-of-a-Kind-Family and its sequels because there was a character with—more or less—my name? Was it because Henny, the second of the five daughters, was a rascal, often up to no good—for instance, soaking a dress borrowed from her sister in tea to disguise a stain? Maybe it was because the family frolicking at a city beach during the summer while their father toiled away seemed to be having such a ball that I wanted to be there with them. It was all of that and more. Beyond showing with such compassion the struggles that an early 20th century immigrant family faced in New York City, Taylor also conveyed wonder and romance about their lives—she raised them up from the huddled masses and gave them pride of place in my imagination. Probably in yours too.
All-of-a-Kind Family formed my earliest impression of the immigrant experience in America. That says a lot given that my own grandparents had come through Ellis Island and made their way through New York City’s tenements before moving on to Boston’s north shore or to Brooklyn, in both cases a decided step up. Taylor’s series portrayed not just Jewish life or immigrant life—but girls’ lives too, and even though their hijinx and quarrels took place decades before I was to learn of them (and longer ago, still, than those kids reading Taylor books now), the themes and struggles resonate still.