Ella, Henny, Sarah, Charlotte and Gertie are five sisters growing up in a poor Jewish family in New York City in the early 1900’s. The classic read-aloud All-of-a-Kind Family series by Sydney Taylor includes five chapter books that follow the joys and sorrows, faith and celebrations of the special family.
This was by far one of my favorite series when I was a girl. I read them over and over and over again. I can still picture exactly where they were on the public library shelf and what the covers looked like because I read them so many times.
All-of-a-Kind Family of Sisters
The first book in the series is All-of-a-Kind Family. The name comes from the fact that they are a “step-and-stair” family of five sisters. Ella is the oldest at twelve, followed by Henny at ten, Sarah at eight, Charlotte at six, and Gertie at four. Their mother dresses them alike in dark woolen dresses, starched white aprons, three petticoats, and heavy long woolen stockings so they are quite a site to behold when they go out and about together.
The sisters are all unique little people with different personalities that come through. Ella is talented with a lovely singing voice that becomes a significant part of the story development in future books. Henny is the most tomboyish of the sisters and most apt to get into trouble. Sarah, the middle sister, is quiet and studious and loves nothing better than to have her nose in a book. Charlotte is the absent-minded dreamer who is often responsible for spending time with Gertie, the baby of the family.
The sisters enjoy many simple pleasures together such as going to the library and buying penny candy. Although the family is poor, their parents find ways to help them enjoy life whether it is a treasure of books at their father’s junk store or going on an outing to Coney Island. The illustrations add much to the telling of their various stories.
Jewish Faith Lived Out in New York City
Perhaps the greatest gift from All-of-a-Kind Family is how it shows the different ways this Jewish family practices their faith. There are chapters devoted to celebrations such as Purim and Passover. The story also weaves in their celebration of the Sabbath.
The telling of their faith story is a natural and significant part of the book and gives non-Jewish readers an excellent introduction into the activities and celebrations of Jewish families.
The Continuing All-of-a-Kind Family Series
The story continues in More All-Of-A-Kind Family. The second book in the series picks up where the first left off with the sisters enjoying new adventures and a new family member. The stories continue in All-of-a-Kind Family Downtown, All-of-a-Kind Family Uptown, and Ella of All-of-a-Kind Family. The books have been in and out of print and are sometimes difficult to locate.
All-of-a-Kind Family and the subsequent books in the series by Sydney Taylor are a delightful look at a poor Jewish family in New York City during the early 1900’s. Their love of family, faith and fun continue to inspire and delight new generations of elementary-aged children who read them.