By Susan Tan

As a child, I was enthralled by traditions.  

           I loved them, from going to Hebrew school, to my parent’s tradition of letting us eat ice cream for dinner on April Fool’s day, to the way we lined our shoes up in straight, neat rows before going inside my Nai Nai and Ye Ye’s[1] apartment.  

           This love of traditions has lasted into my adult life, and I often wonder if my family and our traditions are the reason that I write.  My mother’s family is Jewish, and came over from Russia several generations ago.  My father’s family is Chinese and Christian, and my Ye Ye was an evangelical Christian minister.  I’ve inherited a rich family history that teems with stories, from my grandparents’ accounts of their close escape from Communist China with my father as an infant, to the stories my mother’s mother tells of Passover Seders all in Hebrew and Yiddish, with linen napkins so big they spilled from your lap to the floor. We’re also a family that continually generates new narratives, because when you ask your evangelical minister grandfather to please come up to say an Aaliyah at your Bat Mitzvah, that simple act is, in itself, a pretty excellent story.

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Celebrating Diversity in Jewish Books for Children

Guest post by Barbara Bietz, Past Chair of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee, author, and creator of the blog Jewish Books for Children.

By learning about other cultures through literature, we celebrate our differences as well as our commonalities. Books about different cultures offer young readers access to people whose backgrounds and religious beliefs may be unfamiliar, but through their stories readers establish emotional connections that foster understanding and compassion. Book awards that celebrate diversity help librarians, teachers, and parents identify excellent works that offer meaningful experiences to readers.
The Sydney Taylor Book Award
The Sydney Taylor Book Award, established by the Association of Jewish Libraries in 1968, honors new books for children and teens that exemplify the highest literary standards while authentically portraying the Jewish experience. The award memorializes Sydney Taylor, author of the classic All-of-a-Kind Family series about a Jewish family with five sisters growing up on the Lower East Side of New York City in the early 1900’s. Gold medals are presented in three categories: Younger Readers, Older Readers, and Teen Readers. Honor Books are awarded Silver medals, and Notable Books are named in each category.

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