Page 89 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 35

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POSNER / JEWISH JUVENILE BOOK AWARDS
79
enough sensory material to help the reader feel he is there?
Is it representative of the time priod? Fourth,
th em e
—has the
au thor manifested his po in t of view? Is this being done through
the characters or being told to the reader by the author? Is it
overly didactic or unrealistically moral? Fifth and last,
s ty le
how does the author tell his story? Can he summon up the
words, images and rhythms that build up mood and suspense,
or is he pedantic and uninspiring?
Informative non-fiction must be judged by authenticity and
liveliness of presentation. Of what use is the most highly re­
searched work if it is deadly dull? Non-fiction writers must be
especially aware of their target audience in order to be able to
reach the readers at their level. If the book is about the Vilna
Gaon, does it present the facts of his life through research?
Are the attitudes and mores of those times conveyed?
S ty le
is
especially important in writing non-fiction. How is it that Asimov
or Werstein can teach us history and science in their books, yet
keep us in such animated suspense that we feel we are reading
an adventure story? I t is because they have a happy facility
with language and know how to use colorful prose in order to
build to a climax.
As Jewish librarians we concur with the Jewish Book Council,
that the award is to be given to tha t book which “combines
literary merit with an affirmative expression of Jewish values,”
and we further define “literary” by those specific criteria described
by authorities in children’s literature. In addition, we are very
much concerned with the “child-appeal” of the book. What
type of child will enjoy this book? What needs does this book
fulfill? Will the book serve to make the child aware of the
tribulations of the Jewish people, of their accomplishments?
Will it further Jewish identification and Jewish study? How
does it tie into the curriculum of the Hebrew school or the film
being shown in the high school? All of these are valid questions
for the librarian, teacher and parent to ask concerning the books
they offer to their children to read.
So many Jewish children’s books are on either end of the
continuum. Either they are all Jewish content, or they are only
minimally Jewish. If the story is about a Jewish family living in
contemporary America, are some of the ramifications of American
Jewish family life present, such as religious affiliation; rituals