Book Review | The Story of Esther: A Purim Tale
by Eric A. Kimmel

Score: 2.5

Illustrated by Jill Weber

© 2011, Holiday House

Writing a children’s version of the Book of Esther is no easy task, filled as the biblical story is with lewd, violent, secretive and ill-mannered behavior that is difficult enough for adults to interpret. Why were there “No restrictions” on the drinking during King Ahashuerus’ seven day party? How does one explain a eunuch to a first grader? What should be written, in an age of gender equality, to explain that as a result of Queen Vashti’s disregard of the King’s command a law was passed that “all wives will treat their husbands with respect, high and low alike.” And that is just Chapter One!

I am thrilled that none other than Eric Kimmel, storyteller extraordinaire, decided to tackle this dilemma, putting his time and talents to writing an Esther story for the younger set. I will say that my first reading of the book was troubling. There are story elements missing (i.e. one less dinner from Esther), a bit of revision here and there that  I was uncomfortable with (i.e. Mordechai revealing the plot to kill the King to the King’s guards, rather than through Esther), and he even invokes the name of God in two places, when the whole point of the Esther story is that God’s name is nowhere to be found.  Nevertheless, after rereading and considering the challenge of the overall story, it appears Mr. Kimmel, relying heavily on Midrash and other resources, did a good job creating a version of the Esther story that would be understandable and entertaining for young readers.

The acrylic, gouache, tempera, watercolor ink and pencil artwork is bright and colorful and clearly illustrates the text. My favorite illustration is of Esther simply combing her hair as she prepares to meet the King, while several other women are busy with their lipsticks and powders.

While this is not a book for the very youngest, children ages 9 – 13 will certainly enjoy the experience of reading it and perhaps using it for their own Megillah reading on Purim.

Grade Level: 4th – 7th

Ages: 9-13

©2011 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and forwordsbooks.com all rights reserved.
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