Earlier this week, the Association of Jewish Libraries announced the Sydney Taylor Book Awards for the best Jewish children’s books of 2010. Many of the winners made appearances in my best-books roundups for younger and older kids.
Some fabulous books, to be sure … but as ever, certain literary settings and themes do emerge repeatedly. As Laurel Snyder (a Sydney Taylor Notable Book author!) observed in Tablet Magazine, it can be challenging to get non-didactic, newfangled Jewish books published. (Her much-praised Baxter, the Pig who Wanted to be Kosher was rejected by a Jewish publisher, who didn’t want Baxter to be … a pig.) Snyder wrote that while there are certainly wonderful Jewish children’s books (and while I agree—this year offered a bumper crop; Hereville in particular is about as original a graphic novel as I’ve ever seen), most feature “edutainment that relies on old models. Illustrations that could have been painted for a ketubah. Stories set in shtetls.” She added: “We need more kinds of books for our kids, books that are fresh and funny, that speak our kids’ language, whatever that is, or becomes.” Amen, Laurel. But until we get books that don’t use the same tried and true tropes over and over again, clearly it’s time for a Jewish children’s book drinking game!
Every time you see one of the following, imbibe appropriately. Depending on your level of tolerance (for alcohol or for Jewish children’s books), you may want to limit yourself to one or two volumes per session. Or half of one.
Picture-book pastel bubbe with little round glasses? Do a shot of schnapps.
Learning to live/love again after war/terrorism? Bottoms up.
Old people are awesome? L’chaim.
Arachnid? Do a shot of Sammy (Hagar)’s Cabo Wabo.
Poultry? Do a shot of Wild Turkey.
Holocaust? EXEMPTION. DO NOT DRINK. If you had to drink every time one of these books mentioned the Holocaust, you would be too smashed to read within five minutes.
Hashem rendered as pastel blue gouache sky with puffy clouds? Amen! Do a shot!
Shtetl? Ya ha deedle deedle bubba bubba deedle deedle DRINK!
African-Americans and Jews: Brothers of another color? Alize-Manischevitz cocktail!
2011 Sydney Taylor Book Awards Announced by the Association of Jewish Libraries [The Book of Life]
Related: Where the Wild Things Aren’t [Tablet Magazine]
Children of the Book Part I [Tablet Magazine]
Children of the Book Part II [Tablet Magazine]
Marjorie Ingall is a former columnist for Tablet, the author of Mamaleh Knows Best, and a frequent contributor to the New York Times Book Review.