Page 214 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 25

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J
e w i s h
B
o o k
A
n n u a l
194
use of Jewish juvenile literature in a variety of ways: by the lists
it publishes, the program booklets it issues, and its reviews in
In Jew ish B o o k lan d .
N ot the least of its many functions is the
annual Isaac Siegel Memorial Juvenile Award given to the author
of a meritorious Jewish juvenile book published during the
previous calendar year.
A most important element in the development of a literature
is the critic, the prodder who is not content with just a book but
demands that it be beautiful, imaginative, exciting as well as
informative. A good critic of children’s books needs a “keen per-
ception of the qualities that make literature, of those qualities
in books that make them particularly important to children, and
a profound respect for children as individuals and for children’s
intelligence and taste and interests.” Such a critic, such a prodder
was Miss Fanny Goldstein, a librarian in the Boston Public
Library who passionately furthered the cause of more and better
books for Jewish children.
The earliest issues of the
Jew ish B ook A n n u a l
mentioned books
for children only in passing. It was not until volume 5 (1946-1947)
that a paper written by Miss Goldstein was included w ith other
articles covering various phases o f Jewish literature. In this
article, “The Jewish Child in Bookland,” Miss Goldstein out-
lined certain principles still valid today for judging children’s
books. Her first concern was with the importance of literature as
“an aid to character building, education and enjoyment” ; her
second was with the problem of encouraging first-rate writers to
write first-rate books for children. She wrote: “N o matter what
social changes America may experience when postwar plans are
completed, she w ill require an ever increasing abundance of
modern literature covering a gamut of current topics. Basic infor-
mation on the main trends of our Jewish life stream is indispen-
sable in order to insure intelligent adjustment and participation
of the modern child.” How prophetic! History was indeed in the
process of opening many new avenues for exploration and exploi-
tation. The holocaust, the establishment of the State of Israel,
new archaeological projects, along with an awareness of the Jew-
ish child’s role in American life were only a few of the forces
that were to make themselves felt.
Miss Goldstein’s article covers factors basic to the development
of a dynamic and meaningful literature for the Jewish child. As
a librarian, she could speak of books for Jewish children w ithin
the context of books for all children. Observing the development
o f a general juvenile literature, she deplored the comparatively
infinitesimal number of books being published for the Jewish
child, the dearth of attractive picture books for the pre-schooler,
and the lack of imagination displayed in the subject range in
books for older children. Inspired by the establishment of Chil­