I recently came across a copy of the 1993 obituary for Ralph Taylor.
“Who is Ralph Taylor?” you might ask. Apparently the co-owner of Caswell-Massey (who knew??). More impressively (to me, at any rate), Ralph Taylor was the husband of Sydney Taylor, who remains known for introducing generations of Jewish kids to the Lower East Side. Ella, Henny, Sarah, Charlotte and Gertie. With a baby brother, Charlie, arriving at the end of the first of the five-book series and introducing this Reform school girl to a Pidyon ha-Ben (Benny the Pigeon, anyone?). It was Ralph Taylor who slyly entered his wife’s manuscript for consideration of the Charles W. Follett award for writing. Which she won.
I wish I could remember who introduced me to these books. I wish that I could remember so that I could express my gratitude for inserting me into a world not unlike that known to my grandparents. Through Taylor’s vivid storytelling, I searched for buttons in the front room alongside Mama’s girls. When I got my ears pierced at the mall, I was surprised to find that I did not have loops made of candle wicks in my lobes like Sarah. And I was introduced to a new colour (ecru) after Henny frantically tried to cover-up the tea stain on Ella’s white linen dress. I have loved these girls and their stories for nearly three decades. I loved that their stories and experiences mirrored the ones of my family and me.
The importance of providing a literary portal for Jewish children and teens cannot be emphasized enough. As a religious, ethnic, and cultural minority, Jewish kids can feel marginalized without seeing their own experiences refracted through the stories of others. The Association of Jewish Libraries has been recognizing outstanding Jewish children’s literature since 1968. As a tribute to his wife, Ralph Taylor helped to continue this tradition by supporting the creation of the Sydney Taylor Book Award. Each year, books, their authors, and, in some cases, their illustrators are honoured for their outstanding contribution to Jewish literature.
New this year is a blog tour. Based on the idea of a book tour, this virtual tour will be located on various blogs throughout the blogosphere. And I am so excited that the blog tour’s 2nd stop will be right here at Frume Sarah’s World on Monday, February 1, 2010.
You are cordially invited!