Page 96 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 50

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
the publisher’s list. Trade publishers began to equal and surpass
the number of Jewish publishers, publishing Jewish children’s
books on subjects that were formerly the province solely of Jew­
ish publishers. They also published fiction with Jewish charac­
ters in central roles. This further increased the annual produc­
tion of Jewish children’s books and raised the standards of Jew­
ish children’s fiction.
The seventies witnessed the entrance into the publishing field
of two new types of Jewish children’s presses. The first is the
alternative press, a product of the counter culture do-it-yourself
movement prevalent in the sixties, that led to small press pub­
lishing of Jewish children’s books, such as Kar-Ben, founded
in 1975 by Judye Saypol Groner and Madeline Wikler. The
second type is that of the Orthodox presses. Towards the end
of the seventies, publishers of materials for the Orthodox Jewish
market such as Hebrew Publishing Company, Feldheim, Merkos
L’inyonei Chinuch, Judaica Press, and Art Scroll — who pre­
viously had maintained a very low children’s book publishing
profile or none at all — began to get into the children’s book
field. Hebrew Publishing and Feldheim Publishing hired their
first children’s book editors — Deborah Brodie and Yaffa Ganz,
respectively. In 1979, Judaica Press published the first of its
Devorah Doresh
mystery books (by Carol Hubner) which was to
start a whole new genre of children’s mystery fiction that used
talmudic reasoning to solve crimes. By 1979, 51 books were
listed in “Jewish Juveniles.”
As the line between the product produced by trade and Jewish
publishers became less distinct, Jewish authors of general chil­
d ren ’s literature began to devote themselves to the writing of
books with Jewish themes. Even non-Jewish authors began to
write books with Jewish characters, mostly on themes of anti-
Semitism, brotherhood, the Holocaust or Israel. When Jewish
authors wrote Jewish children’s books for trade and Jewish pub­
lishers, they frequently drew upon the immigration experiences
of grandparents and great-grandparents, as did Kathryn Lasky
in
The Night Journey
(Warne, 1981); or they wrote about a central
character, usually a girl, becoming more involved in her Jewish
identity as in Johanna Hurwitz’s
Once I Was a Plum Tree
(Mor­
row, 1980).
Jewish authors were also beginning to write good fiction with
universal themes and plots that were not specifically Jewish, yet