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Jan 31 2012

Where Have all the Good Jewish Books for Kids Gone?

By at 11:29 am

Simms Taback

So, I’ve been writing a little bit for the Forward. Last month I pleaded with the Jewish establishment to spend money on Jewish childcare (preferably in my part of Brooklyn!). And this month I take on Jewish children’s books arguing that they should be better. Here’s the first bit to get  you started. Click on over to the Forward to read the rest.

(Feel free to disagree with me, and please, please share the names of your favorite Jewish books in the comment section below.)

Who Will Light Up Jewish Kids Lit?

Death of Two Authors Leaves Gaping Hole in Genre

Back in my dating days, there was always a moment of panic when I brought a guy home to my apartment for the first time. I dreaded that (seemingly endless) minute of lingering about, of analyzing and judging — my bookshelf.

I thought about those uncomfortable moments the other day, as I was unpacking my 2-year-old daughter’s books and toys in our new house. Pulling out each title and putting it on her shelf, I considered what each book said about her and about us, and the lessons that could be gleaned from each tale.

Among the most loved books on her shelf are those by Simms Taback and Russell Hoban — two great and wildly popular Jewish children’s book authors who, sadly, died only days apart this December.

While it’s hard to find any commonalities in their work — Hoban didn’t write about explicitly Jewish themes; Taback depicted immigrant life in America — they did have similar backgrounds. Both were from poor Jewish families, born only a few years apart in the Northeast, served in the Army and later worked as art directors, illustrators and teachers.

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