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4.7 out of 5 stars
All-Of-A-Kind Family Downtown
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 18 January 2002
I was given this as a prize at my junior school in 1969, and read it over and over and treasured it for years.Sadly I lost it when I lent it to someone and it was never returned.I now work for a library and have asked for it to be ordered for our stock.
The story is about a large Jewish family in America around the end of the 19th/start of the 20th century. It follows the fortunes of all the children, from the baby to the teenager, and all the customs and traditions of Jewish life. Gripping from beginning to end.This book will appeal to many different age groups, and would be lovely to read as well as have someone read it to you.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 20 August 1999
I first read this book in my childhood and somehow lost it, although it was a favourite. A Jewish family of 5 girls growing up in New York at the turn of the century, it's a kind of Jewish "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn". Although I have not read it since then, I still remember so many details - the scratchy tights, the game of "hunt the button" that the mother set up to encourage the girls to tidy the house (it doesn't work on my children, but it was a great idea!), the uneaten soup as a first sign of illness, the festivals - Jewish (Passover etc) and American (Independence Day).
So many Jewish books for children are about the Holocaust or Eastern European Pogroms, or modern day stories. I'm looking forward to re-reading it now and I'm sure my children will enjoy it - I'll keep the website posted!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 4 September 1999
I have never forgotten this delightful book, which I first read while in 3rd grade, thirty years ago. I was so excited to see a reissue that I had to buy it! I must have read it twenty times during my grade school years. I was one of three Lutheran families living a predominantly Jewish neighborhood in the suburbs of Chicago and the book brought the lives, beliefs and culture of these warm and wonderful families to life for me. This was in the 60's, not the turn of the century, but the story is timeless. I wanted one of the pinafore dresses that the girls wore so badly that I badgered my poor mother for weeks until she made one for me. I loved it and wore it until it was practically a rag! What a happy memory and the return of an old, beloved friend.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 29 April 1998
I read this book when I was five years old. I was in London, England, where I was born and lived until we moved to Canada a year later. There I was a black, Catholic, British child reading about this wonderful Jewish-American family living in New York in another time. I didn't know any Jewish people at the time so I found the story fascinating. It was especially meaningful because we had just had our own long-awaited baby brother. The years went by and I always kept a special place in my heart for the book, but I forgot the title! Then one day I was talking to some people about childhood and I mentioned this book that I had read and loved but didn't know what the title was. Someone said, "oh, I know that book. It's called All of a Kind Family". I contacted a book search company and bought a copy. The feeling of opening the package and seeing the cover with those little girls in their striped pinafores after so many years was indescribable. Even though the book meant so much to me, I gave my copy to the daughter of a friend. I felt that I had to pass the gift of this book to another generation. I would recommend this book to anyone, of any age.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 8 July 1998
I read this series multiple times as a secular Jew growing up in Queens in the late 1950s, and loved them for their "Jewishness" and their inclusion of cultural details missing from most of the many books I read. I also loved the depiction of the sisters, as we were also a family of girls - each sister was distinct and treasured. I was eager to share these books with my own daughter, and we read this one together about six months ago, when she was just-turned-six. She adored it, and kept asking for "just one more" chapter. A couple of months later, she spotted the book in a bookstore, grabbed it, and clutched it to her chest. "But we've already read that one. Don't you want to pick something else?" "No, I *love* this book. I have to *have* it!" I was thrilled - this was the first time she actually coveted book-ownership, and am now shopping for the other books in the series, now out-of-print. One caveat - although the book deals beautifully with Jewish immigrant life on the Lower East Side, it also contains stereotyped references to other ethnic groups that were current when it was written. For example, non-Jewish "good" characters tend to be tall, thin, and (yes!) blond, and there are offensive descriptions of Poles and Italians. I found myself editing while reading (and still felt it necessary to discuss stereotypes and prejudice) - you might want to initiate a conversation with your child before or during the reading of this book. Enjoy!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This book has a timeless gentleness and calm that could easily captivate the right kind of modern young reader.

I am always leery of well-rated classics, where all of the reviews refer to how much the reviewer loved the book 40 years ago, or when the reviewer was in third grade. That really is very nice, but it doesn't tell me how the book will appeal to a modern sensibility. (Have you tried to read Cooper's "Last of the Mohicans" recently?).

The good news is that this book holds up very well, and may actually be better now, (by comparison to what else is available), than when it was first published. Of course everything is viewed through a soft-focus lens and the memories are sort of gauzy and idealized. But, it's not sappy and it does not secretly wink at the reader. It's also not overwritten with gummy, sentimental claptrap, but is rather cheerfully breezy and clear sighted.

It presents the reader with small happinesses, (the girls pooling their savings and buying Father a special birthday present), and small problems and disappointments, (the lost library book, the fact that the girls can watch the carousel at Coney Island but can't afford to ride it). But a good small book can be memorable, comforting, and exciting to the imagination - and wouldn't that be a nice gift to a young new reader?
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on 2 July 1998
This special book opens the private doors into a warm, boisterous, Jewish home with five daughters, in New York's East Side in 1912. Although they were poor by external standards, this first-generation family was rich in more meaningful ways: loving, caring and sibling interaction. Imagine--5 girls sharing one bedroom in a four-room upstairs flat. It was quite a challenge to keep secrets from Mama and each other.
We are indebted to the author for the privilege of enjoying such an intimate portrait of her girlhood; this book is is the first of four All-of-a-Kind family stories, which bring us to the eve of World War I. It's fun to guess which girl grows up to be the author. The details of female interaction in a poor family may not appeal to elementary boys, but then this book may well have been written more for adults, in praise of Family Virtues. The girls have their own unique personalities, while Mama seems almost perfect (possibly idealized by her admiring adult daughter). Pity poor Papa who seeks refuge and male companionship in his basement Junk Shop, passing time with various immigrant peddlars.
We catch glimpses of the simple pleasures of their modest lifestyle; library days and the value of books, the Jewish marketplace, penny candy treats, choosing Papa's birthday gift, Roman candles on July 4th--even inadvertant matchmaking! We share their sorrows and trials as well: scarlet fever, soup tantrums and the consequences of juvenile disobedience, lost possessions and even kids. In all this turmoil of growing up in a large family, the emphasis is always on the human element and personal dignity, which mere poverty can not demean.
As a Gentile I find it pleasant to learn about another culture and faith in Taylor's gentle, unpreachy manner. She decribes Sabbath preparations and several major Jewish holidays, so that we are enlightened while being entertained. This family truly belongs to all of us, regardless of our ethnic or religious backgrounds. They reveal their foibles a! nd frailties with warmth-- international yet truly American in appeal. As Mama explains how they are All Of A Kind: "It means we're all loving and loyal, and our family will always be that." A charming book (decades before The Waltons) which will rekindle the best memories of home for readers of all ages.
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on 14 December 1998
Sydney Taylor won the Follett Publishing Company book award - she didn't even know her husband, Ralph, had submitted her first novel to the publisher! - for this, her first children's book. Thus began a career that is most distinguished for the series detailing the adventures of five sisters early in this century. Most distinguishing about them is the fact that they are Jewish, not as a stereotyping characteristic but rather a means to explore landscape that hadn't yet been handled in children's literature. This first in the series is particularly insightful in its introduction of the Jewish high holy days - Sabbath days, Yom Kippur, Purim and Succos among them. (Plus, the author even throws in the Lower East Side's celebration of a purely American event - Fourth of July - to demonstrate that this bright-spirited family is tied not merely to its religious roots but is nationalistic as well!) While All-of-a-Kind Family is one of those falsely sunny books that came out of the 1940s and 1950s, it's nice to believe that this is the life that Taylor lived as a child. (Incidentally, Taylor's real name was Sarah, and the stories are based loosely on her own childhood. All of the sisters' names are real.) Sydney Taylor died in February 1978. This initial story was followed by four more books in the series: More All-of-a-Kind Family, All-of-a-Kind Family Uptown, All-of-a-Kind Family Downtown and, published posthumously, Ella of All-of-a-Kind Family.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 23 July 1999
I read these books in grade school and loved them. I have been trying to remember the name of the series for years, and finally included it in a review (No Flying in the House- another great book available from Amazon). Thank you to Amazon for helping me find all of these books that were so much a part of my childhood! This series was one of my favorites- I remember laughing so hard that I couldn't stop at all of their antics, and halfway longing that I had lived then. These are a must read for any child.
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on 12 March 1999
I have always loved Sydney Taylor's "All of A Kind Family" books, ever since I was little. My friends and I used to pretend we were them and I was always either Henny, my favorite because I was like her, or Gertie, if someone had taken Henny. This book is about five little girls in the year 1912. The girls' names are Ella, who is twelve, Henny, who is ten, Charlotte, who is eight, Sarah who is six, and Gertie, who is four. If I did not get these girls' names or ages right, I am sorry. Anyway, the five girls are loyal sisters and enjoy doing many things: going to the library, celebrating Jewish holidays, even dusting! If you enjoy such books about girls and you feel as if you are really there, this is a book to read. I recommend this book to anyone I know, and you can guarantee they love it!
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