US children’s literature: award

JTA – An illustrated book about a Holocaust survivor and two fantastic books featuring dybbuks and Jewish Demons won this year’s top Jewish children’s literature awards.

The Sydney Taylor Book Awards are given annually to outstanding works of Jewish children’s literature, as part of the American Library Association’s Youth Media Awards and in conjunction with the Association of Jewish Libraries.

This year, the first prize in the picture book category is The Tower of Life: How Yaffa Eliach Rebuilt Her Town in Stories and Photographs by Chana Stiefel, illustrated by Susan Gal.

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Aviva vs. the Dybbuk by Mari Lowe won in the children’s book category.

When the Angels Left the Old CountrySacha Lamb’s debut novel, won the Young Adult Award.

Named in memory of Sydney Taylor, the author of the series All-of-a-Kind-Family which is being adapted into a television series, the prestigious award “recognizes books that exemplify high literary standards while authentically portraying the Jewish experience,” according to the awards committee announcement.

As chair of the Sydney Taylor Prize committee for three years, Martha Simpson sees a growing diversity in Jewish children’s books. This year, the committee reviewed a range of new titles that depict global Jewish life, others that feature neuroatypical characters and LGBTQ children, and still others that are set in Orthodox communities, he said. she writes in an email.

“There are many different ways to live a Jewish life,” Simpson said. “It’s wonderful that these stories are finally being written and published so that readers can see each other and also learn from other experiences. »

The first picture book tells the story of Yaffa Eliach, who survived the Holocaust in hiding with her family after being expelled from their hometown of Eishyshok, a Polish shtetl (now in Lithuania), where she had helped her grandmother in her bustling photography studio to take portraits of the Jewish villagers.

After immigrating to the United States and becoming a historian, Eliach embarked on a journey around the world to track down thousands of photographs and memorabilia of Jewish families in Eishyshok. Her ambitious project is now a centerpiece of the main exhibit at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. She died in 2016.

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. (Credit: CC BY-SA/AgnosticPreachersKid)

Former Sydney Taylor Prize winner and former National Jewish Book Award winner Gal brings the story of Eliach to life through her richly colored illustrations, interspersed with photographs of Eliach.

Aviva vs. the Dybbuk by Lowe’s is a coming-of-age thriller of an introspective 11-year-old girl that opens a window into the daily life of a tight-knit Orthodox Jewish community in New York City. After the accidental and traumatic death of her father, Aviva and her increasingly reclusive mother move into a small apartment above the old mikvah, the ritual bath, of which Aviva’s mother becomes the guardian. One dybbuk supernatural and disruptive, which only Aviva can see, becomes her confidant. This story of resilience deals with grief, memory, the ups and downs of teenage friendship, acts of anti-Semitic violence, and the healing power of love and community.

A demon named Little Ash and an angel named Uriel are the fascinating characters in the universe of When the Angels Left the Old Country, a fantastic story written with lyricism by Lamb. As the pages turn, these two unlikely Talmud study partners, who take on human form, leave their small Residence Zone shtetl to travel to New York to find the missing daughter of the village baker.

On their journey, they face the perils faced by Jewish immigrants – a deceitful rabbi, suspicious Ellis Island officials, exploitative sweatshop bosses, and the pressures of Jewish assimilation. Lamb paints a richly textured narrative of pathos and wit, filled with Jewish culture that explores gender identity and the bonds of friendship.

Angels won two other ALA awards, including the Stonewall Book Award for LGBTQ works for young readers.

In addition to the overall winners, the Sydney Taylor committee named nine books as silver winners and nine notable titles for their Jewish content. The winners will be honored in June during the AJL videoconference.

Other books featuring Jewish characters and themes have also received several ALA awards, including The Life and Crimes of Hoodie Rosenby Isaac Blum, which won the William C. Morris Award for First Book for Young Adults, and Just a Girl: A True Story of World War II by Lia Levi, illustrated by Batchelder Prize-winning Jeff Mason, adapted for young readers and translated from the original into Italian.

Jewish children’s books recently awarded the Jewish Book Council’s National Jewish Book Award are The Very Best Sukkah: A Story from Uganda by Shoshana Nambi, illustrated by Moran Yogev, and the mid-level novel The Prince of Steel Pier by Stacy Nockowitz.

Last week, the Association of Jewish Libraries separately announced that Omer Friedlander had won the organization’s fiction prize for The Man Who Sold Air in the Holy Landa collection of short stories set in Israel.

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US children’s literature: award-winning dibbuks and a story by a Holocaust survivor