Suffer the Little Children

9780814722992: Hardback
Release Date: 8th April 2013

9781479822294: Paperback
Release Date: 8th April 2015

9780814724002: PDF
Release Date: 8th April 2013

9 black and white illustrations

Dimensions: 153 x 229

Number of Pages: 253

Series North American Religions

NYU Press

Suffer the Little Children

Uses of the Past in Jewish and African American Children's Literature

Hardback / £42.00
Paperback / £21.99
PDF / £23.00

compelling work examines classic and contemporary Jewish and African American
children’s literature. Through close readings of selected titles published
since 1945, Jodi Eichler-Levine analyzes what is at stake in portraying religious
history for young people, particularly when the histories in question are
traumatic ones. In the wake of the Holocaust and lynchings, of the Middle
Passage and flight from Eastern Europe's pogroms, children’s literature
provides diverse and complicated responses to the challenge of representing difficult
collective pasts.

In reading
the work of various prominent authors, including Maurice Sendak, Julius Lester,
Jane Yolen, Sydney Taylor, and Virginia Hamilton, Eichler-Levine changes our
understanding of North American religions. She illuminates how narratives of
both suffering and nostalgia graft future citizens into ideals of American
liberal democracy, and into religious communities that can be understood
according to recognizable notions of reading, domestic respectability, and
national sacrifice.

children are the idealized recipients of the past, what does it mean to tell
tales of suffering to children, and can we imagine modes of memory that move
past utopian notions of children as our future? Suffer the Little Children
asks readers to alter their worldviews about children’s literature as an
“innocent” enterprise, revisiting the genre in a darker and more unsettled

Jodi Eichler-Levine is Associate Professor of Religious Studies and the Berman Professor of Jewish Civilization at Lehigh University (PA).

Eichler-Levine exhibits mastery of this genre in a scholarly, comprehensive book that brings a literate, impassioned, interrogative analytical lens to familiar and lesser known children's books.

Catholic Library World

Jodi Eichler-Levine sets out to make the connections between African American and Jewish childrens literature, a potentially fruitful area of study because of the two groups shared inheritance of similar Biblical stories.

Children's Literature Association Quarterly

Whats so exciting about Suffer the Little Children is that it brings a deeply grounded religious studies perspective to bear on contemporary American childrens literature in ways that enrich both the study of literature and our understanding of childhoods role in U.S. Judeo-Christian cultures. By focusing on American childrens books by and about Jews and African Americans and the core tropes that interweave through these textsfrom the idea of 'chosenness' to the haunting spectre of genocideEichler-Levine gives new meaning to the idea of the `sacralized child. Suffer the Little Children sheds new light on the relationships between race, religion, citizenship, and childhood. It also reminds us once more of why childrens literature provides such a revealing lens for analyzing American culture.

Julia Mickenberg
Learning from the Left: Children’s Literature, the Cold War, and Radical Politics in the U.S.

In this startling analysis of children's literature written by African Americans, Jews, and African American Jews, Eichler-Levine (religion/Jewish studies, Univ. of Wisconsin, Oshkosh) claims that 'redemptive' stories about victimization are a necessary part of these works in order to gain acceptance.


Eichler-Levine's appreciation for the art and transcendent possibility of children's books will inspire other scholars of religion, American history, and literature to pick up childhood favorites. In so doing,Suffer the Little Childrenpromises to spark a broader investigation of the wide-ranging contributions Jewish writers have made to this understudied literary tradition.

American Jewish History

Jodi Eichler-Levines insightful book illuminates the importance of fear and suffering in shaping African American and Jewish childrens literature. Her book gives a cogent understanding of how each community's difficult historical narratives coupled with their religious and social lives have helped to prepare children to engage an American civic life that has been hostile at times to their ethnic groups.

Anthea Butler,University of Pennsylvania

Exhibits an impressive command of multiple disciplines to offer a compelling of reading of Jewish and African American childrens literatures. . . . Eichler-Levine's close readings of youth literatures and reader responses are always clear and often delightful as she deftly works at the crossroads, providing new signposts for navigating vexing questions at the intersections of religion, citizenship, trauma, and redemption.

Liora Gubkin,author of You Shall Tell Your Children: Holocaust Memory in American Passover Ritual

This rich and rewarding study invites fresh thought about the political religiosity of stories for children and the potential of contemporary children's literature to help forge a new politics of American childhood.

Amy Fish
Children's Literature