Nancy Drew wasn’t Jewish. Neither were The Bobbsey Twins, Heidi, Anne of Green Gables, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Laura Ingalls Wilder, or my all-time favorites, Betsy, Tacy and Tib (by Maud Hart Lovelace). In fact, there was not a single Jewish child in any book that I read during the 1940’s. Sydney Taylor’s All-of-a Kind Family wasn’t published until 1951 when I was fourteen and no longer looking for reading material in the children’s room of the public library.
Although I came from a very assimilated Jewish home, I was nevertheless very aware that my background was different from my Christian classmates’. It would have meant a great deal to me to have found Jewish book friends with which I could identify and even learn more about my own heritage.
Happily, many of the most talented and best loved children’s book writers of recent years like David Adler, Judy Blume, Barbara Cohen, Karen Hesse, Marilyn Sachs, Maurice Sendak, Jane Yolen and Jane Breskin Zaiben have been Jewish. Their books and the characters in them have given new role models for today’s children.
Johanna Hurwitz is the author of more than 40 children’s books including Once I Was a Plum Tree, The Rabbi’s Girls, The Adventures of Ali Baba Bernstein, and Baseball Fever.