My Favorite Young Adult Books

All-of-a-Kind Family pretty much tops my list of all-time favorite young adult books.

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I read the entire series to my kids when they were younger. We’d sit on my daughter’s bed, the kids in pajamas as we entered the world of the Kind family—a poor immigrant Jewish family who lived on the Lower East Side at the turn of the century.

 There were 5 sisters—Ella, Henny, Sarah, Charlotte and Gertie—and later a brother, Charlie. They were a close-knit family who loved to spend time together. During their daily outings they’d go to the library, to the market with Mama and to Papa’s shop. They’d dust and search for hidden buttons. They’d prepare and celebrate the Jewish holidays.

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 The Kind family knew how to make do with very little and yet they always managed to have fun. Their Judaism grounded them and guided them. Life seemed simpler back then.

 I desperately wanted to be one of the Kind siblings. I think my kids did, too.

 When All-of-a-Kind Family was published in 1951, it was the first time a book featuring a Jewish family was read and loved by all children regardless of religion or background.

I was so excited to hear that the All-of-a-Kind Family series had been re-issued thanks to the incredibly talented Lizzie Skurnick.

 Lizzie is the columnist for Jezebel.com’s Fine Lines and the author of ten teen books in the Sweet Valley High, Love Stories and Alias series. She has written on books and culture for The New York Times Book Review, Times Sunday Styles, LA Times, NPR.org, and The Washington Post among others. Her literary blog, Old Hag, is a Forbes Best of the Web pick. I always look forward to Lizzie’s  “That Should be a Word” column in The New York Times Sunday Magazine.

 She’s now started her own imprint, Lizzie Skurnick Books, bringing back the best in young adult literature from the classics of the 30s and 40s to the thrillers and novels of the 70s and 80s.

 My kids were thrilled when I told them was going to interview Lizzie. She’s known around my house as “that smart gal who is bringing back the All-of-a-Kind series.”

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How do you find the YA books that you’d like to re-print? Are they all books you read when you were younger? Do people send you suggestions? Do you roam around used bookstores?

Yes. I am a big roamer of bookshelves, but I also have an enormous library of my own books I read as a child. We also love reader recommendations!

What is the experience like to re-read your favorite YA books as an adult? I know you review and discuss many of these books in your Fine Lines column, but specifically, what is it like to reflect on who you were back when you first read these books?

Well, the strangest thing is to see what I didn’t understand. Parents always worry about kids being exposed to too much in their reading, but things that were too advanced for me at that age—sex, particularly—I tended to gloss over, responding more to the emotions and circumstances. You can understand the emotions of puberty, even if you’re too young to know the mechanics!

I also loved realizing how political and sophisticated the books were. As a child, I enjoyed the stories. Rereading them as an adult, I realized how much I had learned about history, science, psychology, and feminism as a child, from the sophisticated ideas that were part of the wonderful stories.

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 How did LS Books begin?

It really began way back when I first read the novelization of The Karate Kid (embarrassing entrée into a literary life, but that’s what it was!) More recently, Robert Lasner saw me online talking with the other Fine Lines and Shelf Discovery readers and proposed to his wife, LG publisher Elizabeth Clementson, that they begin a line of YA classics with me as editor. And then it took off!

I’m sure you get asked this all the time, but I can’t help it, I have to ask… What are your favorite YA books?

They are all my favorites. But I can tell you two I was VERY excited to get back into print: Berthe Amoss’s SECRET LIVES and Brenda Wilkinson’s LUDELL. (We’re publishing a new sequel to SECRET LIVES, MISCHIEF AND MALICE, this spring.)

What are your favorite bookstores? (I love plugging the indie and used bookshops.)

They are the used booksellers on Sixth Avenue in the Village and on Broadway on the Upper West Side!

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To learn more about Lizzie Skurnick and other YA books she’s brought back into print, visit Lizzie Skurnick Books.


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3 Comments on My Favorite Young Adult Books

  1. Marci
    October 13, 2014 at 9:39 pm (6 years ago)

    I loved those books as a kid. Both rivi and Shayna loved them too!! Fun to share childhood favorites with my own family.

    Reply
    • Julie Levine
      October 14, 2014 at 1:55 pm (6 years ago)

      I agree! It’s so special when your children love the the books you loved as a child.

      Reply
  2. Tammy
    October 14, 2014 at 1:38 am (6 years ago)

    i remember reading all of a kind family to my daughter as a child. i haven’t considered re-reading any of these books as an adult. perhaps it will be my next book club recommendation!

    Reply

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