All-of-a-Kind Family

by Sydney Taylor

Paperback, 1984



Call number

PB Tay

Call number

PB Tay

Local notes

PB Tay




Yearling (1984), 192 pages


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


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

192 p.; 5.19 inches

User reviews

LibraryThing member satyridae
First re-read of this book in years uncountable.

This is the book from which I first learned about the Jewish faith. As a little heathen child, I'd been dragged to various Christian churches by friends and cousins, and I knew (I thought) all about that religion which was boring, boring, boring. But
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this...nobody I knew ever built a little bitty house in their backyard. Or got to eat parsley dipped in salt water. I was fascinated.

Not only was I a little heathen, I was also a little singleton. Reading this story of 5 close and loving sisters made me envious and amazed. Mama was patient, she was kind, she was wise, she was gentle. She was perfect! Papa was all those things, too, plus he had crinkly eye-corners when he smiled! And the pushcarts! The Library Lady! Dusting for buttons! Coney Is-land! I'm sure I read this book at least 30 times before I turned 14. I don't think I've read it since.

I sank back into it with a sigh. They were all still there in New York in 1912, waiting for me. Only this time, I was different. I watched Mama, and I marveled. I know now that Taylor based this family on her own, and I wonder more about some of the stories. Mama worked so hard, so long, and was so incredibly patient. The family's poverty resonates more with me now, and I see what passes between Mama and Papa when they worry about money. And when 4 of the girls are down with Scarlet Fever? What must have gone through her mind that never showed? What about all that sewing? Five girls? That's a lot of little girls to raise on a junkman's iffy income. The picture painted with this book is full of depth and compassion and love. Taylor's writing appears effortless. The illustrations are lovely, too.

It's a wonderful book. It evokes an era that's gone forever, and it does it without undue sentimentality and nostalgia. The hardship is right there for those with eyes to see, but so is the love. This family is a whole, functioning, happy family, and it's a delight to join it for an hour. In fact, I'm about to go read the rest of the series, so I'll be joining it for a few days. Lucky me. You should be so lucky.

Also? The chick pea man! I love the chick pea man: "Arbis! Shaynicke, guttinke arbislach! Keuf meine heise arbis!"
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LibraryThing member Lisa2013
I first read this book about 50 years ago (yes, I am dating myself) and the last time I read it was probably 49 years ago. I remember loving the book at the time but I think read it just the years I was 9 and 10, and I think I always read library copies. I am wondering if I even read it in third
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grade but I don’t remember for sure, so I’m sticking with my original read date, which was when I was in fourth grade.

I did a reread, something I’ve long wanted to do, mostly because the Children's Books group is reading it for one of their book clubs. (I feel so grateful to them; now that I’ve reread it I wish I’d done so years ago, and probably more than just once.) I reread this book from March 16, 2013 through March 17th, 2013.

I guessed about the couple in question, even before the plot gave me the background or any hints, but probably didn’t as an 8-10 year old on first reading. I did want more about the two of them and their future, but I guess that’s what sequels are for. And this book did have a delightful ending.

I love how close the sisters are, how thoughtful they are, how they play fair, and how each of their different personalities comes across (I’ve always been especially fond of Sarah, the middle daughter), and I appreciate the parenting they got too. It’s just a wonderful family. I envied the closeness of the family but was and remain a bit surprised that the girls’ child friends didn’t make any appearances; it was only family and adult family friends that showed up in the story.

I love how Jewish holidays and traditions are seamlessly incorporated right into the story. Although I’m Jewish, my nuclear family never celebrated Jewish holidays, not at all. I went to a couple Passover seders at cousins’ and then when I was about 12 I learned and participated in two different friends’ Jewish family celebrations, but not on a completely regular basis.

What’s funny is when I was young I read tenement and how money was dear so I thought of this family as poor, and I guess they are in a sense, but there was enough money to give each girl 1¢ a day in spending money, which is 35¢ a week, and that money could buy a lot back then, and they had enough for a few other extras too, so now they don’t seem particularly destitute or needy to me.

I loved the library and the books portions of the story, and always have.

There is some anachronistic material such as when describing men of different ethnic groups and the “freaks” at Coney Island, and the differences between girls and boys regarding interests, careers, and roles, but I accepted that. This was historical fiction even 50 years ago.

The ink drawings are lovely and really add to the story. They help make it a perfect book for 7 or 8 though 10 year old chapter book reading kids but the story and characters can be enjoyed by everybody, which makes it an ideal book for read aloud, for one to one, for families for sure, and for teachers and students. Adults will enjoy the reading experience as much as the children do.

I hated being an only child and always wanted a big family and at ages 9 and 10 it was sisters I wanted, so I know I got vicarious gratification from this and many other books about families.

This is a perfect comfort read book and a lovely, fun, heartwarming, and old-fashioned yet timeless family story.

Thanks to Goodreads friend Melody I know to read only 2 of the 4 sequels, and I do want to read both of them.
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LibraryThing member bostonbibliophile
Sydney Taylor's classic book for middle readers is set in the Lower East Side of New York City and depicts the life of a traditional Jewish family in the early 20th century. All-of-A-Kind Family is the first in a series of novels about the lively family and is a sweet, charming read. The story
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takes the reader through most of year and involves not just the family but their friends and acquaintances, too. The book opens with a chapter about going to the library, and the children's librarian (or "library lady," as the girls like to call her) is a gentle, recurring presence. The children's adventures include a trip to the market, scarlet fever and an outing to Coney Island, where one of the girls gets temporarily, and happily, lost. Meanwhile the story meanders through a year of Jewish holidays and teaches the reader a little about each one. I particularly enjoyed the chapter on Shabbat and how Taylor contrasts the hubbub of shopping and preparations with the simple serenity of the day itself. The family relationships struck me as very true and believable- for example, Papa's ambivalence regarding the present the girls get for his birthday and his quick turnaround struck me as realistic and human. I can imagine any parent reacting the way he did initially and then rallying in the end. I appreciate Taylor's honesty about her characters throughout the book, too. It's a great book for anyone and I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series and sharing in the further adventures of this fun, busy family.
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LibraryThing member mathqueen
This series of books makes a great addition to a young person’s book collection. Written in the 1950’s, it chronicles the lives of five young Jewish girls living New York City during the early 1900’s. It ties together the themes of immigrants, Judaism, and American patriotism in a way that
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few books for young readers can. These stories could be criticized for romanticizing or trivializing the struggles of Jewish immigrants. My answer to this argument is that these books were written for young independent readers. Concepts presented in books for this age group must be enjoyable and interesting so that comprehension is easily achieved and the student experiences that boost in self-esteem that comes from finishing a book! This series is great for the young reader because they are just wholesome, happy reads. They describe the antics of a group of sisters who usually get along, sometimes fight, and sometimes disobey their parents. These books also give the young reader an opportunity to learn about some Jewish traditions right along with the young characters in the story.
Library Implications: These books bring forth so many different opportunities for learning through print; it is hard to limit the options listed here. The lives of immigrants in New York could be studied, focusing research perhaps on one tenement community. The concept of Jewish traditions and holidays can be explored, using technology to watch video clips of celebrations very different from American customs. American history in the early 1900’s could also be a topic of study. These stories take place right before the start of World War 1, so older students could explore the causes of the war and how if effected immigrant families.
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LibraryThing member JenJ.
Listened to Listen and Live eaudio edition narrated by Suzanne Toren over the course of a month or so. This worked really well for a now and then listen because it's very episodic. Would be a great recommendation for families looking for gentle reads. I really enjoyed learning about how the family
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celebrated Jewish holidays.
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LibraryThing member Teazle
Lovely family story about a family of girls living in New York. I would have loved this as a child.
LibraryThing member vesnaslav
These books are nostalgic reminders of how I learned the modern ways of celebrating Jewish holidays a a young girl. These remain beautiful stories of sisterhood and compassionate parenting.

Plus, who could forget their Italian friend Guido?
LibraryThing member MereYom
This is a sweet book with sweet themes. Perfect for a young reader who is able to read chapter books, but who is not yet ready for the darker themes of many children's books.
LibraryThing member MerryMary
An episodic tale of 5 little Jewish girls living on the East Side of New York City in 1912. Simple scenes of everyday life, with just enough explanation of Jewish holidays and customs to bring understanding to middle elementary readers. A good read.
LibraryThing member jedilora
I loved this entire series as a child. This, the first one, is more organized by the Jewish holidays as the family goes through their year. The five little girls, growing up in New York City during the early 1900s, learn about their faith and their culture. The reader learns about the world they
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live in as they explore their neighborhood market for Shabbat, go to the library, head to Coney Island(complete with sideshow), get scarlet fever, and finally learn about having a little brother.
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LibraryThing member MarthaL
A memorable story, strong in period details about Jewish family life. Excellent read aloud for any middle grades class room.
LibraryThing member debnance
Favorite part: New baby comes after five girls and it is a boy. "Now we're not all-of-a-kind any more," one of the sisters says. Mom: "Yes, we are. We all love each other and care about each other. We're still all-of-a-kind."
LibraryThing member whitreidtan
This book is the first in a series about 5 poor little Jewish sisters living with their loving parents in New York City prior to WWI. It is very much a gentle middle grade story, told episodically with only the slenderest of threads keeping it from being related short stories. There is a charm to
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the novel but it is one that is hard for an adult who doesn't already have fond reading memories of it to pick up and enjoy thoroughly. The historical situation is interesting and the little girls are lovely. The easy introduction of Judaism was natural and likely somewhat exotic when it was published. It seems to me that our world and our experiences are a bit more global now than they were and so it loses a bit of the novelty factor, at least for me and for my non-Jewish but always inquisitive children. Children who enjoy reading about their counterparts in the past will enjoy this series of vignettes and will probably get some good imagination exercising in as they put themselves in the place of these sweet, sunny little girls. Adults may find the excessive cheer and always happy outcomes a bit much but it will appeal to them too if they want an hour or so of sheer, unsullied escapism.
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LibraryThing member BSmiles
This book is about a mom and a dad and 5 step daughters. it was set in New York City around 1900. this book is about all the adventures the girls have
Personal Reaction:
I didnt really like this book, it was kinda boring.
classroom extention:
1. Shows children what it was like in the 1900
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shows children that all kids go through stuff.
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LibraryThing member spellinggirl
My mom introduced me to this book when I was 8; she read it herself at the same age! I love all of these books about a loving Jewish family. I learned a lot about the religion and I will never get tired of reading them! I also love the companion books!
LibraryThing member gundulabaehre
A heart-warming, gently humorous and informative family story, my one main regret is that I only recently discovered Sydney Taylor's All-of-a-Kind Family (I would have loved this delightful story as a child, or a teenager, and am now keener than ever to read the rest of the series, but the sequels
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are, unfortunately, not nearly as readily available as the first book of the series).

Wonderful, delightful episodes show the joys, the struggles and the close family and neighbourhood ties of a Jewish-American family in early 20th century New York City. I love how the different Jewish holidays, how Jewish cultural and religious traditions are depicted and shown throughout the story, informatively, but with no hint of didacticism. And I especially appreciate how the all-of-a-kind family also shares its traditions with friends who are not Jewish (specifically Charlie and the Library Lady, who actually end up rekindling, rediscovering their romance, which had been thwarted by Charlie's bigoted and judgmental parents).

In today's world, where multiculturalism, where different cultures are again so often under attack and scrutiny, All-of-a-Kind Family clearly and lovingly demonstrates that different cultures can not only exist and peacefully coexist in a country, in a city, in a neighbourhood, but that these different cultures can and should be shared, that sharing one's cultural heritage leads to increased tolerance and understanding (and that even though we might have different cultural and religious traditions, we are basically all quite similar in many ways). Recommended for anyone (both children and adults) who enjoys warm family tales, as well as anyone interested in learning about Jewish-American culture and traditions.
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LibraryThing member matamgirl
Oh my goodness. I loved this so much. I wish that I had read it as a child so that I could have had years of rereading it. The story of these five sisters is so charming and it really does make you want to be one of them.
LibraryThing member paakre
I think that this book is perfect for a fourth grader. It leads the reader on a journey through the holidays of the Jewish year as experienced by five sisters living on the lower east side of Manhattan in 1912 with their hard working father who has a rag and junk business and their loving and fair
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mother. There is a visit to Coney Island and Playland, the building of a succos house, celebration of Purim. The descriptions of the Jewish holidays are folded into the day to day lives of the children who operate as a tightly knit group.

Very charming, with a hint of romance between the Gentile librarian and fellow junkman Charlie.
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LibraryThing member norabelle414
In 1912, on the East Side of New York City, lives a Jewish family of a mother, a father, and five girls: Ella (the grown-up one), Henny (the troublemaker), Sarah (the logical one), Charlotte (the dreamer), and Gertie (the baby). The girls love candy, and books, and although they don't have much
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money they can always find ways to entertain each other.

This is the first in a series of really cute books that I read when I was little. The girls are all different and are really fun, and it's a great introduction to Jewish customs. Several Jewish holidays are described throughout the book, from the perspective of the extremely excited little girls. I think these appealed to me more than the Little House books and Anne of Green Gables books when I was a kid, because these girls lived in a city, like I did. I enjoyed this trip down memory lane, although there is not much more to appreciate here as an adult than as a kid.
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LibraryThing member abergsman
A sweet book about a Jewish family living in the Lower East Side in the early 20th century. From what I read online, this seems to be the first book about a Jewish family written for a mainstream audience. I absolutely love how this book casually demonstrates the way in which different cultures can
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coexist peacefully together.

I pre-read this for my daughter, who is an advanced reader. It put me in mind of the Little House on the Prairie series, and is a great selection for sensitive, gifted readers who might not be ready for some of the material in other books on this reading level (such as Harry Potter).
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LibraryThing member SarahGraceGrzy
All of a Kind Family is just so amazing! Such a sweet story of a Jewish family living in the early 1900s. So sweet and innocent. I remember reading it when I was younger and loving it, and was beyond excited when I found out it was a series. The five little girls are so adorable. Their
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personalities are so unique and different, yet they get along so well. A must must read for pretty much anyone! Especially girls. 6 out of 5 stars! ;)
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LibraryThing member AbigailAdams26
One of the great delights of my childhood, Sydney Taylor's All-of-a-Kind Family books were some of my absolute favorites as a girl, and I have read and reread them countless times over the years. Unlike some readers, they didn't serve as my introduction to Judaism - my father sat on a number of
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ecumenical and interfaith councils, and my first experience of Jewish religious tradition was probably the Passover Seder we attended at the home of a rabbi friend of his, when I was very young - but they did give me a serious case of Purim envy. Honestly - what child wouldn't want to partake of a holiday in which you're allowed to dress up in costumes, encouraged to make noise, and given lots of treats? I have this vivid memory of accompanying my mother to the city on one of those "take your child to work" days, and passing a branch of the New York Public Library that had a copy of Ella of All-of-a-Kind Family on display in the window. Having had, until that moment, no idea that there even was a fifth story about this marvelous family, I was simply beside myself with excitement (even then, the NYPL was a place of magic) and made my mother march in at once and check it out for me. Ah, what a day that was...

All of which is to say, I simply adore these books. They are a treasured artifact of my childhood, but they are also phenomenally good books, in as far as I am able to judge these things objectively. The story of a loving Jewish family living in New York City's Lower East Side in the early years of the 20th century, they chronicle both the everyday occurrences and the special occasions (whether religious or secular) that make up their world. This first one is so familiar to me, that I have only to look at the cover, and I can instantly call to mind the opening of the book, in which Ella, Henny, Charlotte and Gertie wait impatiently for slowpoke Sarah to get home, so they can all go to the library. As someone who went to the library every week as well, my childhood self entered immediately into this story of girls so like me, and yet also unlike me. I could probably list all the chapters from memory - the one with the button game (got to get those girls to dust properly!), the one with the candy and cracker-eating in bed, the Purim one (naturally), the one where everyone but Henny gets Scarlet Fever, the one at Coney Island, the one where Charlie and his long-lost lady love are reunited (sigh!) under the Sukkah - although I might not string them together in quite the correct order. Memorable, entertaining, heartwarming, informative - these stories have it all! Even the artwork, contributed here by illustrator Helen John, is dear to me.

Having now reread All-of-a-Kind Family for at least the hundredth time - I have decided to revisit the series, in order to read the newly published picture-book, All-of-a-Kind Family Hanukkah - I can confirm that it holds up as well as it ever has, and is every bit as superb as I remembered it to be. Recommended to anyone who enjoys well-written family stories, engaging historical fiction, fiction featuring Jewish children, vintage girls' books - in short, good reads, full stop!
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LibraryThing member SeriousGrace
There are five children to keep track of in All-of-a-Kind Family: Gerdie, Sarah, Henny, Ella, and Charlotte. Each child has a wonderfully illustrated distinct personality. Together they make their way through turn-of-the-century New York City and all it has to offer whether it be a trip to the
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carnival atmosphere of Coney Island or around the corner to Papa's shop.
Taylor does a wonderful job including a primer of Jewish customs around the holidays. It does not come across as didactic or religiously heavy. Instead, there is a heartfelt pride in the rituals. It's not a spoiler to say the children have two surprises at the end of the book.
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LibraryThing member suesbooks
I read this book, at least for the second time, with my grandson. It was his second time hearing the story, and he was so engrossed. It is good as a history of the Lower East Side, and the thinking at the time. Many of the same thoughts exist in some communities, But my grandson and I discussed how
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we know so much more today.
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LibraryThing member eas7788
Another I can't be objective on. I know why I loved it -- a book full of girls, harmonious (but not always) family life, learning about another culture, episodic chapters but an over-arcing story. The ultra-traditional gender stuff is rough but accurate for the time.




(406 ratings; 4.2)
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