Sydney Taylor Book Award

sydney taylor book award

The Sydney Taylor Book Award is presented annually to outstanding books for children and teens that authentically portray the Jewish experience. Presented by the Association of Jewish Libraries since 1968, the award encourages the publication and widespread use of quality Judaic literature. Gold medals are presented in three categories:Younger ReadersOlder Readers, and Teen Readers. Honor Books are awarded silver medals, and Notable Books are named in each category. (From the website

number the stars

Lowry, Lois. Number the Stars. Laurel Leaf, 1989. 137pages. $16.99 ISBN-13: 978-0395510605

Annemarie and her family help their Jewish friends escape German occupied Denmark during World War 2.

Historical Fiction

Age Range 8-13

Rating: 4 out of 5 for quality, 4 out of 5 for popularity.

Newbery Medal, 1990

Sydney Taylor Book Award for Older Readers, 1989

National Jewish Book award, 1990

Annemarie and her best friend Ellen live in Copenhagen during World War II. There are food shortages and no one drinks coffee anymore. While the Germans have occupied the city for some time, suddenly word has come that they plan on relocating the Jews in Copenhagen, so Annemarie’s parents take Ellen in so they can help her and her parents travel across the bay to safety in Sweden. The story is exciting and sweet, the willingness of the young girls to accept the strangeness and learn about courage beautifully told. The story of Denmark, which surrendered to the Germans in World War II to protect its citizens, and the beloved King who still travels around the streets to encourage his people even in times of hardship is very moving. While this is a story about two families, it is also the story of a nation trying to do right, as well as of the resistance movement. The strength of this book is in its simple storytelling and its willingness to introduce children to the hard topics of the holocaust and racism. While the writing is good and the story important, what this book lacks is staying power, I distinctly remember the cover from reading is as a 5th grader, but a couple decades later and my reread was like a first time read. I have fairly good retention for books read and loved that long ago, but perhaps in the effort of taming an incredibly scary and violent story to one that could be read by young children takes away some of its punch.


Saving Sky by Diane Stanley

The Good Liar by Gregory Maguire

Journey to America by Sonia Levitin

Book Discussion

  1. Why does Annemarie choose to accept the limited information she gets from her uncle? Would you have been able to keep from being curious to be safe?
  2. Annemarie did not think she could was brave, do you think she was brave?

Book Talking

Would you be brave is soldiers came into your home and you had to pretend your best friend was your sister to save her life? Annemarie was brave, but she didn’t think so.


Lowis Lowry website

Information about the Occupation of Denmark

Video interview




Deutsh, Barry. Hereville #1: How Mirka Got Her Sword. Amulet Books, 2010. 144 pages.  $15.95 ISBN-13: 978-0810984226

Mirka must fight a talking pig and defeat a troll to follow her dream of being a dragonslayer from a small Orthodox Jewish community.

Fantasy Graphic Novel

Age Range 8-14

Rating 3 out of 5 for quality, 3 out of 5 of popularity.

Sydney Taylor Book Award for Older Readers, 2011

Andre Norton Award Nominee for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy, 2010

Mirka is 11 and lives in a small Orthodox Jewish community with her stepmother, father and pack of siblings. She tried to help her younger brother with bullies and ends up finding a witches house. After stealing a grape from the house, she is attacked by a talking pig who pursues her throughout the week until she is able to defeat him. After helping it she gets help from the witch who tells her how to get the sword that could lead her down her dream path of becoming a dragon slayer. In the midst of this fantasy adventure involving witches, talking pigs and trolls, the story tells details about the Orthodox Jewish faith, what Shabbos looks like and how Mirka’s family relationships are structured, both in their support and in the daily challenges. For me the book’s graphic novel structure makes it more interesting than the story would alone, since the artist does an excellent job of illustrating emotions and expressions of its characters. I also appreciate the religious setting, giving kids interested in comics and fantasy an introduction to perhaps an unknown lifestyle.  I think the cover and description of this graphic novel are irresistible. The unusual mix of adventure, knitting, and family make this very appealing book to recommend.


Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke

A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel by Madeleine L’Engle and Hope Larson

Hildafolk by Luke Pearson

Book Discussion

  1. How does this story tell about the life and family of Mirka?
  2. How does the author tie in knitting? Why is knitting important?

Book Talking

How many comic books are about 11 year old Orthodox Jewish girls who fight trolls? What is not to love?


Author interview

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