Page 142 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 54

Basic HTML Version

write more books about the pivotal events that have impacted upon
the Jewish People during the twentieth century. Books on a more
intimate scale are about the difficulties of being a middle-of-the-
road Jew in a predominandy Christian country where the commer­
cialism and prevalence of Christmas is contagious, or being a Jew
in a small Gentile town. The threat to the community from anti-
Semitism prods Jewish authors to use it as a plot element. Coming-
of-age stories about the year preceding Bar or Bat Mitzvah are fre-
quendy explored themes which are sometimes linked with a paral­
lel theme, that of the special grandparent/grandchild relation­
ship—the grandparent being the transmitter of Jewish heritage,
rather than the parent. Jewish authors have also responded to an
inner need to write fiction that subdy demonstrates Jewish values
through the decision-making processes of the central characters.
Others write fiction that deal with the problem of marrying out;
and Rabbi Mindy Avra Portnoy wrote
Mommy Never Went to He­
brew School
(Kar-Ben, 1989) about a convert to Judaism. There are
few books that are consciously feminist, except for Kar-Ben’s
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 nostalgically to show
Grandma or Mommy in the kitchen, most Jewish children’s books
today have strong feminine characters because so many of their au­
thors 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 pub­
lished by trade publishers. In addition to long-time trade publish­
ers 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 Le­
onard 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 il­
lustrated book
by Esther Silverstein Blanc in 1989). Pren­
tice Hall, Scholastic, and Sterling, once mainly publishers of non­