All-of-a-kind Family Downtown

by Sydney Taylor

Other authorsBeth Krush (Illustrator), Joe Krush (Illustrator)
Book, 1972

Barcode

123460727

Call number

J 501 TAY

Collection

Publication

Chicago, Follett [1972]

Description

The adventures of five sisters growing up in a Jewish family in New York in the early twentieth century.

User reviews

LibraryThing member AbigailAdams26
That loving, close-knit Jewish family, five girls and one boy, whose life in New York City during the early years of the twentieth century is chronicled in author Sydney Taylor's five-book series, return in this delightful new adventure, which covers events occurring between All-of-a-Kind Family
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and More All-of-a-Kind Family. Because it backtracks in the chronology of the series, some readers consider it the second book, although it was published fourth. For my part, More All-of-a-Kind Family will always be the second book, although I admit this may be owing to the prejudice of childhood habit, as I always read it second on my innumerable rereads of the entire series. That said, there is a misconception, it would appear, that this was written, like the fifth book, Ella of All-of-a-Kind Family, long after the others, when in fact it wasn't. All-of-a-Kind Family Downtown was written shortly after the first book, and was intended by Taylor as a sequel. Her publisher, the Chicago-based Follett, wouldn't publish it because it contained a grittier, more realistic depiction of life on the Lower East Side than that seen in the earlier book. As a result, More All-of-a-Kind Family was published instead, and Taylor has to wait until the 1970s to see this title in print. I knew none of this as a girl, but it makes sense to my adult self, as unlike so many other readers, I was never able to spy any significant difference in style between this, and the three earlier books. The themes are a little more serious, but other than that, this in no way stands out, either in my memory or on this latest reread, as being significantly different in feeling, than the others.

Leaving all of that aside, All-of-a-Kind Family Downtown is every bit as engaging as its predecessors (if a little more serious), following the ups and downs, joys and sorrows in the life of the eponymous (never named) family. Here we see Henny getting up to her usual mischief, even going so far as to "run away" for one evening, when she is sent home from school with a letter for her mother. Ella is still the responsible eldest sister, and her singing talent once again plays a role, when she is given the part of the jester in her Hebrew School's Purim play. Sarah is as sweet and generous as ever, sacrificing her tenth birthday gift in order to help family friend Guido, while Charlotte has a frightening experience involving some lovely-looking, but very dangerous burning coals. Charlie, born at the end of All-of-a-Kind Family, is still a baby, while Gertie, still quite young herself, is ever-present at all family events and celebrations. In addition to the personal adventures, and religious holidays - Purim, Simchas Torah, and Sukkot all play a role in the story - the family here also become involved in the life of a young Italian-American boy, Guido, whose mother is terribly ill, and who has no other family or friends. Their friendship with Miss Carey, one of the nurses at the nearby Settlement House, is also a theme throughout the book, which takes a much closer look at the poverty and suffering all around the girls. Although there is tragedy here, in the death of Guido's mother from consumption, and the deaths of Miss Carey's son and husband, some time before, there is also love, kindness, and hope, with an unlikely happy ending, in the form of Miss Carey's adoption of Guido.

As should be plain from the discussion above, I have no memory of enjoying this one less than the other books in the series, when I was a girl, although I did reread it less often as, unlike the first three, I didn't own a copy of my own. That said, I think I have a greater appreciation for it now, on this reread, than I did as a child, as I now have a better knowledge of some of the realities it is depicting. Just this past year my mother and I visited The Tenement Museum here in New York City, which recreates a number of real-life tenement apartments from various eras in the history of the building, located on Orchard Street, on the Lower East Side. We toured the "Irish Outsiders" exhibit, set during the 1860s and 1870s, and the "Hard Times" apartment, which belonged to an Italian-American family in the 1920s and 30s. Educational, by turns sobering and inspiring, it was a marvelous experience - one I cannot recommend enough! - and I feel it really gave me a better insight into and appreciation of the realities the All-of-a-Kind Family and their neighbors must have confronted, living in the area. I appreciated the inclusion of darker realities here, both as a girl and as an adult, and have never felt that they ruined the story. Taylor, as mentioned, knows how to create hope and instill confidence, even when depicting sad or disturbing truths. Highly recommend to all fans of the first three books about this family, and to anyone looking for children's stories about life on New York City's Lower East Side specifically, or new immigrant enclaves in America's cities generally.
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LibraryThing member satyridae
Chalk up another crushing disappointment to re-reading an old favorite. I'm certainly still fond of the characters, but this book feels awkward. The dialogue is stilted, the plot clunky, and the illustrations just stink. There's certainly a place for Beth and Joe Krush, I love their work in several
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books- but their drawings here make my teeth hurt- their free, almost messy style doesn't gibe with Mama's bandbox neatness.

This one's not going back on my shelf (which is to say, goodreads friends, if you want it, it's yours).
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LibraryThing member andreacarole
Follow five young sisters in the 1920's, living in the Jewish section of New York City.
LibraryThing member Lisa2013
I’d skipped this one and the Ella book when I read books 1, 3, and 4 because I’d been informed that this one had been written later (turns out not to be true, though it was published later) and that the tone and story were too different, and it was not worth reading. For me it was very worth
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reading, and I wish I’d read them “in order” meaning in the chronological order of the ages/lives of these family members. I do wish I’d read this book right after the first book. It’s just as good and the style & storyline fit in well with the other 3 books, All-of-a-Kind Family, More All-of-a-Kind Family, and All-of-a-Kind Family Uptown. The fifth Ella book seems least popular and I’m not sure whether or not I’ll read it, but I probably will eventually; I’d have rather the focus been on Sarah (Sydney). I’ve always felt particularly fond of Sarah, and did again here too, and this time I also had a particular soft spot in my heart for Henny. The additions of Guido and Miss Carey were wonderful. This story is a series of connected vignettes in a year in the life of this Jewish family. Wonderfully atmospheric historical fiction mostly taking place in NYC’s Lower East Side. I always learn a lot when I read these books. The characters are memorable and endearing. Charming illustrations.
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LibraryThing member suesbooks
This is good for the touching stories and the history of observant Jews on the Lower East Side. I loved it years ago, and my grandchildren love it now,

Original publication date

1972-04-01

ISBN

0695803085 / 9780695803087
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