Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Monday, March 18, 2024

One of a Kind: The Life of Sydney Taylor by Richard Michelson

One of a Kind: The Life of Sydney Taylor
by Richard Michelson; Illustrated by Sarah Green
Calkins Creek, an Imprint of Astra Books for Young Readers. 2024

In, One of a Kind, Michelson recounts the life of children's book author, Sydney Taylor, whose book, All-Of-A-Kind Family was one of the first stories about a poor Jewish family growing up in New York City. 

Born Susan Brenner on October 30, 1904, Taylor always had a curious mind. Growing up poor, Taylor was one of five sisters, and one younger brother, living in New York City. Her parents were from Germany but moved to the United States after facing antisemitism. Though she loved celebrating the Jewish holidays, her parents encouraged her to learn American customs. "so you shouldn't feel like foreigners in your own country."

As she grew, Sarah grew frustrated with the discrimination against women. At age fourteen, tired of the expectation that women needed to be quiet and well-behaved, Sarah changes her name to Sydney. "A boy's name; then people will pay attention to what I write."

It isn't until she has her own daughter, she begins telling her own stories. "She enjoyed reading about families different from her own, but Syd believed that children also deserved to have stories about families that look and sound like theirs do." 

Sydney writes down her stories. "Maybe she can show other children that all people - whether their family have been in America for generations or recent arrivals - share the most important things:  love of friends and family and a desire to be treated fairly." Unfortunately, the American publishers didn't agree.

Her success came in 1950, when her husband sent her story, All-of-a-Kind Family, to a publishing company's contest (Wilcox + Follett Publishers). She won first prize! 

A happy ending, indeed.

Included is an afterword on Sydney Taylor, her husband Ralph, their daughter Jo Taylor Marshall, an author's note, bibliography of the author's sources.

Though the book is based on truth, Michelson does admit that much of the dialogue is invented.

A great introduction to an important author. 

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