Long, long ago, a poor young Jewish woman named Esther is chosen, Cinderella-style, to be the Queen of Persia. But while her new husband, King Ahasuerus, drinks, eats, and plays, his dastardly prime minister, Hamen, schemes. Infuriated by Esther's cousin Mordecai's refusal to bow down before him ("I am a Jew," said Mordecai, "and Jews do not bow down to human beings"), Hamen vows that Mordecai, along with every Jew in Persia, will be killed. Ahasuerus is too distracted by his card games to pay much attention to Hamen's decree, so it is up to Esther to save her people. Risking all, she approaches her hot-tempered husband (who did not know until now that Esther herself is Jewish) to see what can be done. Luckily, Esther's courage and cleverness prevail. Twenty-five hundred years later, Jews all over the world still celebrate Purim, a noisy, lighthearted holiday to commemorate the days when sorrow turned into joy.
Rita Golden Gelman has written over 50 books for children, including More Spaghetti, I Say!. In this playful retelling of the traditional Purim legend, she remains faithful to the original story, based on the Book of Esther. Frané Lessac's folk-art-style gouache paintings evoke the biblical time of Esther, and invite the reader to rejoice at Hamen's downfall. (Ages 6 to 10) --Emilie Coulter
From School Library Journal
PreSchool-Grade 2?In a direct and lively style that conveys its intensity and drama, Gelman retells the stirring story of a young woman who risks her own life to save her people when the prime minister orders that all of the Jews in Persia be killed. The bold, full-color gouache paintings in folk-art style are full of details about court life in Persia. Double-spread pages are often framed in a manner that accentuates the story's events. Thus, the bricks of the palace walls, the arches of the palace interior, or the gallows with a hanging rope surrounding the text become effective design elements. "A Purim Notebook" gives background information on the holiday and its celebration. Diane Wolkstein's Esther's Story (Morrow, 1996) is told as a diary and is illustrated by Juan Wijngaard in a more elegant style. Queen Esther is a fine choice for reading aloud during the Purim festival, which recounts this inspiring event.?Susan Pine, New York Public Library
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