Retold by Rita Golden Gelman
Publication: Scholastic Press, 1998
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