A thoughtful, timely and comprehensive biography ... [Cummins'] portrait of Sarah, who became Sydney, a Jewish girl who became a modern American woman, is thorough and engrossing, and at times I wished for a less dry, less academic voice to go along with the juicy subject. But this is, after all, a work of scholarship, with the serious goal of establishing Taylor as an author who both reflected and shaped ideas of what it meant to be Jewish in America. By that metric, Cummins more than succeeds.
[An] expansive and detailed biography ... Real life is messy. Perhaps the only lasting way to tidy it up is to be selective in the stories we tell about it. This fine first biography of Sydney Taylor shows how well that can be done.
The legion of All-of-a-Kind Family fans will no doubt find the wealth of information interesting, as will librarians, teachers, and children’s literature scholars. Yet the book, perhaps because of its dual authorship, is uneven and often slow-going; one wishes for a smoother, more compelling narrative and more scrutiny of some of Taylor’s contradictions ... Cummins tries to place Taylor’s biography in historical, societal, and psychological context, but often her examination falls short, especially in the later chapters. Perhaps it’s an impossible task. How to reconcile the fictional stories that are so full of empathy and emotion with Taylor’s prickly and irritable personality, and her resistance to the cultural changes of the ’60s and ’70s? ... Despite its flaws, From Sarah to Sydney is a welcome, scholarly contribution to the children’s literature field. I hope that future works about Sydney Taylor are more literary and provide additional perspectives on such a remarkable woman and her legacy.