Posts Tagged Esther

Purim Books

I know it doesn’t feel like Purim is around the corner, but as I’m frequently late on these things, and I’m sending in book recommendations to the awesome www.ChallahCrumbs.com, I’m getting these picks in early.

There are some surprisingly excellent choices for stories that take place during Purim, and even some lovely retellings of the Purim story (which let’s be honest, isn’t really so appropriate for children when you think about it). Here are some of my favorites:

Cakes and Miracles is one of my favorite of the new crop of Purim books this year. It’s technically not new, but has been rereleased after a long stretch of being out of print, and with brand-new fantastic illustrations from Jaime Zollars. Goldin weaves the sweet, touching story of Hershel, a young boy living with him mother in a shtetl in the old country. But what makes this story different than the usual shtelt fare, is that Hershel is blind. His mother is poor and is trying to make hamentashen for Purim to sell in the market. Hershel wants to help but his mother refuses — she needs the dough to make as many hamentaschen as possible and how could Hershel help when he can’t see? And while it’s true that Hershel doesn’t wind up using the dough to make hamentaschen, what he ends up creating is a magical and beautiful Purim surprise. Great for children 5-9 years old.

Another wonderful new rerelease is Purim Play by Roni Schotter (with the fantastic “old” illustrations of Marylin Hafner). Purim Play is the story of Frannie and the Purim play that she is trying to create with her brother and cousins. When her cousins fall in and can’t come, Frannie all but gives up on the play. Until, reluctantly, she accepts the help of her neighbor Mrs. Teplitzky, who proves to be a formidable Haman and a wonderful teacher. In addition to be a being a great story, I love that this is Judaism celebrated in the home, and most of all that it comes with a great script for creating a Purim Play. Great for children 7-11 years old.

Raisel’s Riddle by Erica Silverman is not new, but it can’t be missed when you are looking for great Purim stories. A Jewish retelling of the Cinderella story, this story highlights Raisel’s kindness and intelligence over the good looks that typically win Cinderalla favor. A perfect Purim fairytale.

 

This year also marks the release of two new retellings of the Purim story. Eric Kimmel’s The Story of Esther: A Purim Tale is a faithful and attractive retelling of the Purim story. It’s not the preschool version of the story (where Haman just wants the Jews to leave) but it’s a great version for children 6 and up. Tilda Balsley’s The Queen Who Saved Her People also sticks pretty close to the “real story” but because it’s presented as a reader’s theatre play (much like her Exodus story, Let My People Go), it reads slightly more comically and irreverently. Also good for children 6 and up and lovely for creating theater at home, at school or anywhere.

There are unfortunately some lovely creative retellings of the Purim story that are still out of print. Three of my favorites include:

Mordicai Gerstein’s Queen Esther the Morning Star, complete with Gerstein’s incredible artwork and the addition of some interesting midrashim (rabbinic exegetical stories) to fill out the supernatural elements of the story.

Rita Golden Gelman’s Queen Esther Saves Her People is also a lovely retelling, with fairytale aspects that is sure to resonate for children who like those types of books (are there children who don’t?).

Finally, for children better suited for longer and denser picture books, Esther’s Story by Diane Wolkstein is incredible. This time the story is told entirely through the eyes of young Esther, a winner for kids who want to delve deeper.

Happy reading!


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