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I was glad to learn that "Sydney Taylor" is a pseudonym. I thought it was strange that a Jewish child in that time and place would have such a WASP-y name.

When I saw 'Syndey Taylor' I thought it would be another detective author I never heard of.

I read the first two books about age 9. I remember the different flavoured crackers! I also remember the potato pancakes.

When I came back to NYC one of the first things I did was to buy knish and potato pancakes.

My strongest memory from the books is the girl who is always studying for a history test.

It's funny that you should say that, Maclin, because the only woman I have ever known who was named Sydney was my aunt-by-marriage, and she is the quintessential WASP. I keep wondering why the heck Sydney Taylor picked that name.


Grumpy, I'm glad to know you read those books.


Maybe she thought that sort of name would be more saleable.

I am unlikely to seek these books out and read them but they sound wonderful for young women, and I'm happy to see Dickens mentioned. Growing up in the part of Miami I did, I was fortunate to be surrounded by some Jewish culture. Though not in NYC, the people tended to be from there, or their parents were. This led me to explore writers such as Saul Bellow, Philip Roth etc in my later teen-age years. Another great post about a writer that I would otherwise have never heard of!

I don't know why the name strikes me as so very WASP-y. I think it's "Sydney" as a woman's name. I did know a girl in high school with that name--actually "Mary Sydney"--but she was no more WASP-y than any of the rest of us.

Yet another author I'd never heard of and would love to have read as a child.

About “Sydney” -- according to this piece, she took that name at the age of 12. Maybe it sounded sophisticated to her, and perhaps the new name was also part of her move away from her Jewish way of life; the article says she became a "fully assimilated" Jew who "no longer keep kosher or observe[d] the Sabbath". Or maybe she thought it would serve her better in the world of show biz -- her Wikipedia entry says she acted in a theater group and was also a dancer in the Martha Graham dance troupe.

I had assumed the author had a man's name until hitting a "she".

The last book, Ella All-of-a-Kind Family, is about the oldest sister's career as a singer.

I wonder when that assimilation happened. It might explain part of the difference between the 50s books and the 70s books.


The occurrence of the '60s between the '50s and the '70s might also help. :-)

American Jews and for that matter Italians and Germans changing their names to something more Anglo was not unusual, but this seems slightly odd because "Sarah Brenner" doesn't strike me as particularly "ethnic." Maybe she was *really* eager to be assimilated.

I loved the All-of-a-Kind Family books, too, and so do my children. There's one part that always bugged me, though: the penny-a-day pocket money is out of line with the rest of the insistence on sparse resources. The girls buy their father a cup that he deems extravagant, but they only needed to save their pennies for a week. A one-dollar lost library book is a calamity, but it's only three weeks' worth of allowance. Etc.

Speaking of changing from a German name, I saw on Mary Fahl's Wikipedia page that she was born Mary Faldermeyer.

Interesting. I sort of half-consciously associated the song I posted with the name and assumed "Fahl" was some sort of Irish.

The occurrence of the '60s between the '50s and the '70s might also help. :-)

Yep. That was my implication in the original post. It probably had something to do with her assimilation, too.


Anne-Marie, The penny a day for the library book would have been over 3 months for Sarah. It was only because her sisters helped that it would only take 3 weeks.

I got the idea from the fact that the book talks about their apartment being better than others that they had to be very frugal, but they weren't living in penury.


I was thinking of the pennies from the parents' perspective. They give their kids 35 cents each week of disposable income, but Mama says there's no money to help Sarah pay for the book. It seems out of whack to me for a budget to be flush enough for the allowance, but too tight for the library book.

But this is a quibble. I do love the books. All-of-a-Kind Family was my sister's first chapter book of her very own; she received it the day I received Little House on the Big Woods. Many years later, we were startled to realize how much of our knowledge of Judaism came from the Sidney Taylor books.

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