A few years ago, my friend Rebecca Steinitz did a review for the Boston Globe about this series of children's books by Sydney Taylor. The all-of-a-kind family was comprised of five Jewish immigrant sisters and their parents, all living in the Lower East Side in New York City in the early 20th century. It turns out that author Sydney Taylor told her daughter these stories to make up for the total absence of Jews in children's books of the time. The series follows the family through hard times including war and economic struggle. Being an eldest immigrant child, I identified a lot with big sister Ella, who raised her younger sisters and grew up to be a performer. I learned quite a bit about U.S. history from these books. Steinitz notes that, "Taylor was a socialist, and she subtly threaded political themes through the books, including workers rights (in a May Day celebration), women’s suffrage (when Henny runs for class office), immigration, and assimilation."
New editions of these books are out from Lizzie Skurnick Books, which specializes in reviving out of print children's literature. I recommend them highly and I'm relieved that new generations of readers will have access to them.