Page 103 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 50

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POSNER/ FIFTY YEARS OF JEWISH CHILDREN’S BOOKS
95
the year preceding Bar or Bat Mitzvah are frequently explored
themes which are sometimes linked with a parallel theme, that
of the special grandparent/grandchild relationship — the grand­
parent being the transmitter of Jewish heritage, rather than the
parent. Jewish authors have also responded to an inner need
to write fiction that subtly demonstrates Jewish values through
the decision-making processes of the central characters. Others
write fiction that deal with the problems of marrying out; and
Rabbi Mindy Avra Portnoy wrote
Mommy Never Went to Hebrew
School
(Kar-Ben, 1989) about a convert to Judaism. There are
few books that are consciously feminist, except for Kar-Ben’s
Ima on the Bima: My Mommy is a Rabbi
, an earlier book by Portnoy
(1986), or Yaffa Ganz’s series on
Savta Simcha,
the Jewish
wonder-grandma (Feldheim). Even when they choose nostalgi­
cally to show Grandma or Mommy in the kitchen, most Jewish
children’s books today have strong feminine characters because
so many of their authors are strong-minded, assertive Jewish
women.
Trade publishers still publish twice as many Jewish children’s
books as both commercial and non-profit Jewish publishers. Of
the 68 books published in 1990, approximately two-thirds were
published by trade publishers. In addition to long-time trade
publishers of Jewish children’s books, some interesting new
names have appeared in recent years, e.g., Batsford, Bedrick/
Blackie, Dillon, Discovery Enterprises (a music publisher that
brought out a Leonard Bernstein biography), Kane/Miller (a
publisher primarily of translated books), and Volcano Press (a
small feminist and regional press in California that published
the prize-winning children’s illustrated book
Berchick
by Esther
Silverstein Blanc in 1989). Prentice Hall, Scholastic, and Ster­
ling, once mainly publishers of non-fiction curriculum material,
now publish fiction — some with Jewish content — and more
Christian book publishers are framing their books to appeal
to both Jewish, general and Christian markets, for instance
Barbour
8c
Co. and Paulist Press.
Orthodox Jewish publishers are still very active in children’s
publishing. Small presses are Aura, Targum, and CIS. Jewish
publishers of “Torah T rue” Jewish children’s books are pub­
lishing in greater numbers than ever. Art Scroll/Mesorah has
a very ambitious publishing program for children that includes
direct mail. Books that are appropriate for children of tradi­