Page 170 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 20

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AME R I C A N J EW I S H J U V E N I L E BOOKS
1 9 6 1 - 1 9 6 2
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By
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o ph ia
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edar baum
T
HIS has been a singularly unimaginative and meager year
for American Jewish juvenile books. There are, to be sure,
several bright spots in the picture, but for the most part one is
impressed with a sense of dull routine rather than of glowing
light.
Only one book (and that one not by an American author)
can qualify as a fiction book; and while
Ten and A Kid
is a
delightful romantic tale, it is not what one might call a story
book. We have only one solid biography; the two Covenant
books are more or less fictionalized biographies. Seven of the
titles listed are continuations of series started last year. One
title is a revision of an excellent textbook, and another is a
textbook by a tried and true teacher. Several are translations
from the Hebrew and one from the Dutch. Of the two most
beautifully produced books, one is a pompous volume for the
Bar Mitzvah gift market that is unlikely to be read by young
people; and the other falls far short of its lofty intentions. The
remainder are more or less run of the mill.
Taken all in all, this might be considered a normal curve if
one's standards are not too high. But it is not good enough,
especially in view of past years’ achievements and when we take
into account that this year the coveted Newbery Award was
given to a skillfully written story of the beginnings of Christianity
in the Holy Land. This statement is not made to condemn nor to
condone the giving of the Award to a religious book, but only to
point up the fact that high grade writers are writing of a period
and of a land that can provide fruitful Jewish themes. The
interest in allied Jewish thematic matter is further attested by
the fact that the runner-up for the Award is an excellent and
exciting tale of ancient Egypt. Even the second runner-up, a
reworking of an old fable, covers a subject area where there is
a plethora of Jewish source material.
What is wrong then in the Jewish field? Our parents and
librarians clamor for books for the young, seeming to indicate
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