by Sidney Taylor
I really love this family. It's one of those where I can believe that the girls would really both bicker and love each other as they do. And actually, there's not a lot of bickering. I think my favorite has always been Ella, just because she's the oldest and so am I (I tend to really identify with oldest children in books. Yes, I have problems with fairy tales.)
I also loved and love the glimpse into another culture. The family are observant Jews and their faith is the main underpinning of their life, shaping their experiences and year. This book gives just a taste of what it might have been like to celebrate Purim, Seder, and Succos. While I've never actually attended a Jewish service, in some ways this part seemed oddly familiar. I think that it's because, like Judaism, my own faith celebrates its festivals deeply. Like the girls, I grew up in a world where the circle of the year was shaped by the different feasts.
I think that really this book is wholesome in the best sense of the word. When I read it, I feel whole. Taylor doesn't gloss over the difficulties of tenement life in the early 1900s, but at the same time they don't define the girls' lives. Their parents work hard and are sometimes discouraged, but they also love their children and try to give them the best life possible.
Book source: public library
Book information: Random House, 1951 (originally)