"People of the Books" Blog

2021 Sydney Taylor Book Awards Announced

For More Information Contact:
Rebecca Levitan, Chair
Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee
Association of Jewish Libraries
[email protected]


2021 Sydney Taylor Book Award Winners Announced 

Winners of the annual Sydney Taylor Book Award were announced by the Association of Jewish Libraries today in a virtual livecast at the Youth Media Awards announcement at the American Library Association. Named in memory of Sydney Taylor, author of the classic All-of-a-Kind Family series, the award recognizes books for children and teens that exemplify high literary standards while authentically portraying the Jewish experience. Click HERE for a pdf version of this press release, and click HERE for a pdf listing all award winners. Title links below connect to AJL's Bookshop.org account and benefit both AJL and independent bookstores.


Welcoming Elijah: a Passover Tale with a Tail by Lesléa Newman, illustrated by Susan Gal, published by Charlesbridge, is the winner in the picture book category. This warmly illustrated, poetic book parallels the experiences of a young boy at a Passover seder and a small white kitten outdoors. When the boy opens the door to welcome the prophet Elijah, he finds a furry friend instead. Simple text, diverse characters, and a timeless feel make this a story to be treasured. 

Turtle Boy by M. Evan Wolkenstein, published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House, is the winner in the Middle Grade category. Will’s bar mitzvah service project helps him face challenges in his own life in this engaging story by a debut author. Bullied at school and a loner, turtle-loving Will completes a bucket list of milestone activities for a terminally ill boy and gains the strength to face his own upcoming surgery. 

Dancing at the Pity Party by Tyler Feder, published by Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group, a division of Penguin Random House, is the winner in the Young Adult category. This debut memoir in graphic form is a funny, sad, confidently illustrated meditation on grief. It’s both a tribute to Tyler’s wonderful mom, who died of breast cancer at the age of 47, and a guide to Jewish mourning practices. A singular achievement.



Six Sydney Taylor Honor Books were recognized. 

For Picture Books, the Honor Books are I Am the Tree of Life: My Jewish Yoga Book by Mychal Copeland, illustrated by André Ceolin, published by Apples and Honey Press, an imprint of Behrman House, and Miriam at the River by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Khoa Le, published by Kar-Ben Publishing, a division of Lerner Publishing Group. 

For Middle Grade, the Honor Books are Anya and the Nightingale by Sofiya Pasternack, published by Versify, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; No Vacancy by Tziporah Cohen, published by Groundwood Books; and The Blackbird Girls by Anne Blankman, published by Puffin Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group, a division of Penguin Random House.

For Young Adult, the Honor Book is They Went Left by Monica Hesse, published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Hachette Book Group. 

In addition to the medal winners, the Award Committee designated eleven Notable Books of Jewish Content for 2021. 

The Notable Picture Books are The Eight Knights of Hanukkah by Leslie Kimmelman, illustrated by Galia Bernstein, published by Holiday House; The Polio Pioneer: Dr. Jonas Salk and the Polio Vaccine by Linda Elovitz Marshall, illustrated by Lisa Anchin, published by Knopf Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House; and The Ninth Night of Hanukkah by Erica S. Perl, illustrated by Shahar Kober, published by Sterling Children’s Books, an imprint of Sterling Publishing. 

The Notable Middle Grade Books are Beni's War by Tammar Stein, published by Kar-Ben Publishers, a division of Lerner Publishing Group; We Had to Be Brave: Escaping the Nazis on the Kindertransport by Deborah Hopkinson, published by Scholastic Focus, an imprint of Scholastic; A Place at the Table by Saadia Faruqi and Laura Shovan, published by Clarion Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; and Letters from Cuba by Ruth Behar, published by Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group, a division of Penguin Random House. 

The Notable Young Adult Books are Today Tonight Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon, published by Simon Pulse, an imprint of Simon and Schuster Publishing; The New Queer Conscience by Adam Eli, published by Penguin Workshop, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group, a division of Penguin Random House; The Way Back by Gavriel Savit, published by Knopf Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House; and The Assignment by Liza Wiemer, published by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House.  

More information about the Sydney Taylor Book Award, a complete listing of the award winners and notables, and seals for purchase can be found at www.sydneytaylorbookawards.org

The 2021Winner for the Sydney Taylor Manuscript Award is Cats and Honey Cake by Sonja Spear. 

Winning authors and illustrators will receive their awards at the Annual Conference of the Association of Jewish Libraries, to be held virtually from June 27 to July 1, 2021. Gold and silver medalists will participate in a blog tour from February 8 to 12, 2021. For more information about the blog tour, please visit www.jewishlibraries.org. For an exclusive interview with Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee Chair, please visit The Book of Life Podcast at www.bookoflifepodcast.com

Members of the 2021 Sydney Taylor Book Award committee are Chair Rebecca Levitan, Baltimore County Public Library, Baltimore, Maryland; Rena Citrin, Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School Chicago, Illinois; Judy Ehrenstein, Montgomery County Public Libraries, Bethesda, Maryland; Toby Harris, Temple Beth Am, Seattle, Washington; Marjorie Ingall, freelance writer, New York, New York; Aviva Rosenberg, Ridgefield Free Public Library, Ridgefield, New Jersey; and Martha Simpson, Stratford Library Stratford, Connecticut. 

The Association of Jewish Libraries, the leading authority on Judaic librarianship, promotes Jewish literacy through enhancement of libraries and library resources and through leadership for the profession and practitioners of Judaica librarianship. The Association fosters access to information, learning, teaching and research relating to Jews, Judaism, the Jewish experience, and Israel. 


AJL Presents: Books About Books Series

Holiday Highlights, Spring 2021


Contact: Heidi Rabinowitz
[email protected]



For immediate release January 5, 2021 -- The Association of Jewish Libraries is pleased to announce that four titles have been selected for its inaugural AJL Holiday Highlights list. These titles are AJL’s picks for the best Jewish holiday children’s books of Spring 2021. The Fall 2021 list will be published at the end of the summer.


“These Jewish holiday books exemplify the highest standards of authentic Jewish representation and holiday spirit in both writing and illustration,” says committee chair Heidi Rabinowitz. “Our expert judges are happy to recommend all of them for use by families, in schools, and in libraries. We hope that the publishing world will look to the quality of these examples when seeking to create new Jewish children’s holiday books.”


Holiday Highlights titles will be selected twice a year, for the spring and fall publishing seasons. Fall 2021 Holiday Highlights titles will be named in July, 2021. Digital submissions are being accepted now through THIS FORM. For print submissions, please query [email protected]


The Spring 2021 AJL Holiday Highlights are:


The Passover Guest by Susan Kusel, illustrated by Sean Rubin, published by Neal Porter Books at Holiday House. Ages 6-10  #ownvoices

Readers needn't be familiar with the original I.L. Peretz story, "The Magician", to be wowed by this fresh retelling, set in depression-era Washington DC. Illustrator Sean Rubin's incredibly detailed depictions of the Capital city in springtime perfectly complement Kusel's tale of poor Muriel, whose bare table magically overflows with a Passover feast after her encounter with a juggler who may… or may not… be the prophet Elijah.


Soosie, The Horse That Saved Shabbat by Tami Lehman-Wilzig, illustrated by Menahem Halberstadt, published by Kalaniot Books. Ages 4-8 #ownvoices

This delightful picture book is based on a true story but has a folk tale flavor. Set in Jerusalem in the early 20th century, it tells of a clever horse who delivered the challah on her own when the baker’s boy felt too ill to drive the cart. Bright, engaging illustrations bring the characters and setting to life, as Soosie travels through historic Jerusalem in this finely crafted, heartwarming story. 


The Four Questions by Lynne Sharon Schwartz, illustrated by Ori Sherman, published by Levine Querido. All ages #ownvoices

Rich illustrations depict anthropomorphized animals participating in elements of the Passover seder in this second edition of a 1989 publication, updated with an endnote on the art. Ceremonial but accessible language outlines the story of the Exodus and introduces the traditional four questions, included in Hebrew upside down on the page, allowing the book to be read from either direction and encouraging a shared experience perfect for intergenerational read-alouds or a seder night itself. 


Meet the Matzah written and illustrated by Alan Silberberg, published by Viking. Ages 4-10 #ownvoices

In a classroom populated by anthropomorphic bread products, a disruptive classmate hijacks matzah Alfie Koman's retelling of the Exodus story for Passover. Alfie must find his voice and rescue his favorite holiday from bread Loaf's goofy revisions. Silberberg's delightful, cartoonish illustrations match the exuberant tone of this hilarious read-aloud, suitable for Passover celebrants and holiday newcomers alike.


We are proud to introduce AJL’s  Holiday Highlights judges. 


Robbin Friedman is a children's librarian at the Chappaqua Library in Chappaqua, NY. She writes reviews for School Library Journal and Guessing Geisel, served on ALSC's Newbery committee, and has read Jewish holiday books her whole life.


Amy Lilien-Harper has been a professional children’s librarian since 1995.  She has served on the Newbery committee, the Caldecott committee and the ALA Notable children’s recordings committees.  She reviews picture books for School Library Journal, and has served four times on the Nutmeg Committee, which chooses books for the Connecticut Children’s choice awards.


Sylvie Shaffer is the PreK-8 librarian at the Capitol Hill Day School in Washington, DC and is active in several overlapping kidlit-focused communities including ALSC, YALSA, and Capitol Choices. Sylvie served on AJL's 2019 and 2020 Sydney Taylor Book Awards as well as on ALSC's 2018 Geisel Committee. 


To learn more about the Association of Jewish Libraries, please visit www.jewishlibraries.org


AJL Presents: The Sydney Taylor Real & Mock Book Awards

AJL Member Survey

This AJL member survey is to be used by the Strategic Planning Committee for AJL Strategic Plan development.  There are two sections; first will be specific questions related to your division (RAS/SSCPL/Both/Neither), second will be demographics.  Please keep in mind that this survey is completely ANONYMOUS. It is estimated to take approximately 20 minutes to complete. 


When you complete the survey, you will see an email address to copy and then request to be placed in one of two raffles; a set of Kar-Ben books, or a $25 gift card for Bookshop.org


Follow this link to find the survey (you will need to log in to see it): https://jewishlibraries.org/Strategic__Plan_Survey_2021


Survey Closes January 13th.

If you have any questions please contact Sean Boyle, [email protected]