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‘Sammy the Spider’ creator recognized in the Sydney Taylor Awards

BOSTON — A lavishly illustrated children’s book about a Chinese Jewish family who celebrate both Rosh Hashanah and Lunar New Year is among the top winners of this year’s Sydney Taylor Book Awards for Jewish children’s books.

The publisher of the imprint behind the popular Sammy Spider Jewish holiday books won an award for her lifetime of contributions to Jewish children’s literature.

Both prizes were revealed Jan. 22 as part of the American Library Association’s Youth Media Awards.
Michelle Margolis, president of the Assn. of Jewish Libraries, made the announcement on a livestream from the ALA’s multi-day LibLearnX conference in Baltimore.

Named in memory of Sydney Taylor, the author of the “All-of-a-Kind- Family” series that is being made into a TV show, the awards honor works that “exemplify high literary standards while authentically portraying the Jewish experience,” according to a statement by Aviva Rosenberg, chair of the Sydney Taylor awards committee.

Two New Years by Richard Ho, illustrated by Lynn Scurfield, took the top prize in the picture book category.

The Dubious Pranks of Shaindy Goodman by Mari Lowe won in the middle-grade category, marking the second year in a row that Lowe has snagged the top prize in that category.

Last year, her debut novel Aviva vs. the Dybbuk, like Dubious Pranks a story centered on an Orthodox girl character, won in the same age category.

The Blood Years, by Elana K. Arnold, a historical novel about a young Holocaust survivor from Romania, won in the young adult category.

In addition to the annual Sydney Taylor awards, the AJL awarded Joni Sussman its body-of-work award, granted biennially “to an author or entity who has made a substantial contribution over time to the genre of Jewish children’s literature,” according to the AJL’s press statement.

Sussman is the publisher of Kar-Ben Publishing and the award-winning author of My First Yiddish Word Book and four Jewish-themed Sesame Street board books.

Sussman “has greatly increased the reach of Jewish children’s literature by producing a significant number of high-quality titles over an ever-expanding variety of Jewish topics,” the Sydney Taylor committee wrote.

In recognizing Sussman’s two decades of leadership at the helm of Kar-Ben, the committee said:
“Her efforts have put Jewish books in the eyes of the public and the hands of children on a new scale.”
Among Kar-Ben’s popular titles for readers of all ages is the best-selling Sammy Spider series.

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