Page 105 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 43

Basic HTML Version

MILLER / AMERICAN JEWISH CHILDREN’S LITERATURE
93
daily religious, or specifically Jewish, many of the exciting and
award-winning stories come out of traditional American pub­
lishing houses, and are sold to a public that is not necessarily Jew­
ish or religious. It is therefore content that ties together this pot­
pourri of titles. It may be the specific content of religious-based
publications for schools and synagogues. It may be themes or leg­
ends that involve custom, holidays, Israel/Palestine, Bible, tradi­
tions. I t may be sto ries th a t involve Jew ish cha rac ters ,
personalities, and historical events. During the past twenty-five
years the
Jewish Book Annual
has identified almost 1150 titles as
Jewish Juvenile Books. This paper will examine a breakdown of
these books into specific content areas, present some statistical
analysis, look closely at the characteristics of some of the content
areas, present illustrations, make generalizations and offer spe­
cific conclusions based upon the data.
It is necessary to understand that there are almost two hun­
dred children’s book publishers with five or more annual titles
(Literary Marketplace,
1982) serving the American market. Of this
group, ten identify themselves as being primarily Jewish or reli­
gious publishers. Although the two hundred are only a small seg­
ment of the greater publishing industry, the percentage of Jew­
ish publishers who issue children’s books as part of their annual
list is much higher. Many are specifically designed to be used in
Sunday Schools or purchased through Jewish gift shops and
bookstores. They constitute thirty percent of all of the titles listed
over the last twenty-five years. They range from inexpensive
craft and holiday offerings to handsome, richly illustrated ency­
clopedias. They are rarely seen or used outside strictly Jewish or
family settings. As would be expected, those titles that would be
of interest to a broader audience, even when they focus upon a
holiday or biblical theme, will be found with the non-Jewish pub­
lishers. Characteristically, they are designed to be sold through
general bookstores, and have school or library editions with more
substantial bindings. Their physical appearance, print, paper
goods, and especially writing, are of overall significantly better
quality. Together with the volumes designed specifically as
textbooks, they constitute the portrayal ofJewish life and custom,
of history, of fantasy and reality that serves an American Jewish
population, and casts a corollary set of impressions upon the
larger Christian society. It is a limited picture, replete with mixed
messages and narrow perspectives. It pays scant attention to the