Review of One of a Kind: The Life of Sydney Taylor

One of a Kind: The Life of Sydney Taylor One of a Kind: The Life of Sydney Taylor
by Richard Michelson; illus. by Sarah Green
Primary    Calkins/Astra    40 pp.
2/24    9781635925319    $18.99
e-book ed.  9781635925494    $11.99

Sydney Taylor (1904–1978), born Sarah Brenner, was the author of the All-of-a-Kind Family novels, known as the first Jewish children’s books to be popular with a mainstream audience. Here, Michelson (a recipient of Taylor’s eponymous award for As Good as Anybody and The Language of Angels) tells a portion of her story in a lighthearted picture-book biography. Much of the book focuses on the Lower East Side childhood on which Taylor’s novels were based; it also touches on her socialist activism, her work as a dancer, and her marriage to Ralph Taylor. An emphasis throughout on her interest in books and writing culminates in the “happily ever after ending” of her first book’s publication. The third-person present-tense narration focuses tightly on Taylor’s internal life and, along with occasional dialogue, lends an immediate feel; an appended note acknowledges that much of that dialogue is invented, “but the thoughts, if not the exact words, are all taken from Syd’s writings or [her daughter] Jo’s recollections.” Green’s cool-hued digital gouache illustrations alternate straightforward scenes and spreads filled with vignettes highlighting aspects of Taylor’s life. This introduction, mostly cheerful in focus and tone, provides useful context for her novels (Cummins and Dunietz’s adult biography From Sarah to Sydney, rev. 7/21, paints a more complete picture). Back matter gives brief additional information about Taylor and her husband and daughter as well as a bibliography.

Pubissue-From the March/April 2024 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Shoshana Flax

Shoshana Flax, associate editor of The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MFA in writing for children from Simmons University. She has served on the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award and Sydney Taylor Book Award committees.

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