Posts Tagged ‘Queen Esther’

Let’s Continue Reading for the Joy of It – Simcha/Joy

As Purim approaches (beginning the evening of March 19), and the costumes, hamantaschen and Purim Shpiel (play) rehearsals all come together, our anticipation and happiness seem to reach overwhelming proportions. That is why I chose Simcha/Joy as this month’s value.

I often feel that way when I am reading a really good book. With each chapter, I just can’t wait to read the next, to learn more about the characters, to see what they are going to do in the following pages. Sometimes I am up until the “wee” hours of the morning, because I just can’t put the book down. When I am finished, I feel so happy… until of course the next morning when I have to wake up and go to work. Nevertheless, I have a great story to talk about and share with my readers or students. Nothing could be better…until the next wonderful book falls into my hands.

My choices for this month’s books for older readers are the ones I could not put down. They made me laugh, made me cry or knocked me off my feet, but in the end, they kept me awake until the final page turn filled me with joy. I hope they do the same for you:

All-of-a-Kind Family. By Sydney Taylor. Illustrated by Helen John. © 1951, Yearling. The classic story of a family with five girls living in the Lower East side of New York in the early 1900′s. Their celebration of life in the face of sometimes bleak living conditions is a wonderful look at “seeing the glass half full.” Based on the author’s life.  Ages 9-12 years.

The Importance of Wings. By Robin Friedman. © 2009, Charlesbridge.Publishing. Winner of the Sydney Taylor Award for Older Readers. With appealing and affecting writing, this novel grabs the reader immediately and takes you on a journey of self-discovery, confidence building and empowerment as Roxanne, with a small amount of help from her next-door neighbor Liat,  discovers she has what it takes to be her own person. Ages 10-14 years.

A Pickpocket’s Tale. By Karen Schwabach. © 2006,  Random House Books fro Young Readers.. In 1730, Molly Abraham is living in the streets of London following here mother’s death from smallpox. She supports herself by pickpocketing. Having been caught and tried in a court of law, she finds herself on a ship headed to America as an indentured servant. The ship arrives in New York, where she is ransomed by a Jewish family. In their household she learns how to be a good servant and a practicing Jew. Ages 11-15 years.

Confessions of a Closet Catholic. By Sarah Darer Littman. © 2005, Dutton. Winner of the Sydney Taylor Book Award for Older Readers. Justine Silver has decided that for Lent she will give up being Jewish. This is just the beginning of her struggles with being the middle child, boys, chocolate and of course, religion. Ages 11-15 years.

Strange Relations. By Sonia Levitin. © 2007,   Knopf Books for Young Readers. Winner of the Sydney Taylor Book Award for Teen Readers.  Marne simply wants a nice summer on the beaches in Hawaii visiting her aunt and cousins while her parents are travelling on business. What she gets instead is the discovery that her aunt and uncle run the Chabad House on the mainland of Hawaii, and she is expected to pitch in. Her experiences provide her with some new insights into her religious identity. Ages 14-18 years.

A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life. By Dana Reinhardt. © 2006, Wendy Lamb Books. Simone knows she is adopted and wants nothing to do with her birth mother. At her adoptive parents’ insistance, however, she agrees to meet her birth mother one time. What she discovers is both enlightening and tragic. Ages 14 – 18 years.

I certainly hope you do not stay up until the “wee” hours reading these titles, after all, a good night’s rest is most Important. If you do, however, email me at I will be happy to send a note to your teacher/boss explaining why the book kept you up so late that you overslept and were late for school/work. Beware: You will first have to answer a question or two to prove to me that you read the book.

Have a delicious Purim!

Happy Reading,

Kathy B.

©2011 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and all rights reserved.
Books used in this review were from my own collection and my local public library.
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Book Review | The Queen Who Saved Her People
by Tilda Balsley

Score: 3.5

Illustrated by Ilene Richard © 2011, Kar-Ben Publishing The author who brought us the delightful, “Let My People Go!” has written a new Readers Theater style book based on the Purim story. For the very young, this is a perfect read-aloud version of the Book of Esther, told in rhyme with simple language and fun, [...]

Read the rest of this review »

Purim’s Coming – Where is Queen Esther?

Purim begins at sundown this coming Saturday evening, February 27.  I just finished posting some Purim books as featured reviews and am sad that there were no  Queen Esther books available to share with you. The newest ones have, in my opinion, some irregularities that make them unacceptable for Jewish audiences and my favorites from the past are currently out of print.

However, because  “out of print” no longer means “not available for purchase” these days, I wanted to talk about my favorite Queen Esther books that are still on my book shelf at home. You still might be able to find them online at, or any other internet used book website. Better still, check them out of your local or synagogue library.

Esther’s Story by Diane Wolkstein. Illustrated by Juan Wijngaard. ©1996, William Morrow & Company.  Ages 6-11.  Of all the Queen Esther books, this is my favorite. Written in the form of Esther’s diary, this is the Purim story as Esther saw it,  lived it and felt it.  It starts with Esther writing as a young orphaned girl, trusting in her Uncle Mordecai when he changes her name from Hadassah to Esther. Missing him when she is sent to the palace as a possible queen for King Ahasuerus. Maturing as she becomes queen and learns about palace intrigue and finally must put her own life on the line to save the lives of her people. The powerful and emotional text is accompanied by exquisitely detailed, rich gouache paintings.  The text is fairly true to the Megillah.

Queen Esther Saves Her People retold by Rita Golden Gelman. Illustrated by Frané Lessac. ©1998, Scholastic Press. This version of Queen Esther’s story pretty much sticks to the one told in the Megillah, with a few midrashic elements slipped in along the way just to make things interesting, for example, King Ahasuerus is portrayed as a drunk, gambling, moron in this adaptation.   The primitive-style gouache paintings are colorful, dramatic and use clever details to engage the reader with the story. The Purim Notebook in the back of the book provides an excellent overview of the holiday and its traditions.

Queen Esther, the Morning Star written and illustrated by Mordicai Gerstein. ©2000, Simon & Schuster. Of the three Queen Esther stories I am presenting here, this one least sticks to the script. However, when Mordicai Gerstein is involved, who wants a script? This is a midrash about Queen Esther, and it is a good one. The story unfolds with all its up and downs, ins and outs, joys and sorrows. Perhaps an event here or there does not occur at exactly the same moment or in exactly the same way that it might have in the Megillah, oh well.   What is a dragon or two, an angel here or there where midrash is concerned? The point of the story is the same: Esther goes to the palace – Haman plots to kill the Jews – Mordecai informs Esther of the plot – Esther saves the Jews – Haman dies – everyone celebrates. The best part of this book is the illustrations. Again gouache paintings in Mordicai Gerstein’s unique style – colorful, dramatic, magical.

There you have it, three wonderful Queen Esther books for the Purim holiday.  Please go find one and check it out over the weekend, maybe you can make your Purim costume based on some of the illustrations.   Hag Sameach/Happy Holiday!

Happy Reading,

Kathy B.