Page 111 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 14

Basic HTML Version

AMERICAN JEWISH JUVENILE BOOKS
1955-1956
By
F a n n y G o l d s t e i n
S
INCE the advent of Jewish Book Week more than a quarter
century ago, and later of Jewish Book Month, the American
Jewish community has witnessed a steadily growing emphasis on
Jewish books. Within recent years this trend has been accentuated
and stimulated, and it was devoutly hoped that Jewish creative
writers would also undertake to produce more books for children.
But despite our sanguine expectations, the output of Jewish
juvenile books has been disappointing. Out of a total of 12,589
new books and new editions published in 1955, 1,485 are juveniles;
and of this not inconsiderable amount, only some thirty odd Jewish
children’s books have appeared. More than 70 percent of this
number are concerned with Biblical, religious or educational
themes. Books like Sydney Taylor’s
More All-of-a-Kind Family
,
portraying Jewish life and customs with charm and appeal, are
invaluable for the Jewish child, but should be augmented by
works dealing with a wider range of subjects and interests. There
are too few volumes, for example, that center around fact or fiction
or fantasy to fire the child’s imagination.
I t is paradoxical that, while there is a distinct paucity of Jewish
juvenile books, there is not a dearth of Jewish writers who are
creating general children’s books. Of twenty recent general chil-
dren’s books dealing with diverse topics, it was discovered that
fourteen of these were written by seven Jewish writers.
How can we draw these gifted writers into the Jewish orbit of
creativeness? How can we hope to persuade them to transfer at
least a portion of their talents to the production of good Jewish
books for juveniles? Here is a problem that cries out for solution.
If and when we shall find the formula to arouse in our expe-
rienced Jewish creative writers a greater awareness of their Jewish
heritage, and a subsequent desire to “plant in their own vineyard,”
we may hope for an upsurge in the production of Jewish juvenile
works. Until such a felicitous consummation can be effected, we
must concentrate on cultivating in our children a deeper need and
desire to read Jewish books. We must encourage them to make
use of whatever books are now available. Ours is the responsibility
to aid in enriching those children’s libraries that now exist, and to