What are your favorite Purim books?

The Hebrew month of Adar begins next week, which means that Purim is only a few weeks away. (Which means that Passover cleaning begins in only…..oh, never mind.)

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be writing about some of the ways our family celebrates this very, very kid-friendly holiday (and some of the ways we don’t.)

Oh, and readers? There might just be a very special Purim related giveaway in your future. Stay tuned.

To help us all get in the holiday spirit, would you please share your recommendations for favorite Purim books for children?

To get us started, here’s a re-post of an interview I did last year with Eric Kimmel about last year’s release The Story of Esther.


I love Eric Kimmel. You probably think I mean that I love his books. And I do love his books. But I also love him. I had the opportunity to interview Eric a few weeks ago about one of his latest books, The Story of Esther from Holiday House. We spoke on the phone for close to an hour, but I think I fell in love with him when he first emailed me with his phone number. “Call me tonight,” he wrote. “And I’ll call you back. I have free long distance.”

He is charming and smart and although he thinks like a writer (of course), he also thinks like a teacher. Which meant that our conversation was compelling and thought provoking for me. I came into our conversation fairly certain that children should learn Torah the way it’s written, with its simple language and sparse details, and no midrash mixed in. Eric feels differently. Read our interview to find out why.


I asked Eric what challenges he faced in writing a version of the Book of Esther for children.

You grow up with the story of Esther and Purim. It’s a lot of fun, but it’s a very problematical text. It’s not really a children’s story – it’s full of sex and violence. It would make a great video game. To prepare, I went back, I reread the story. The first thing you run into is that it’s very complex. I had to ask myself, “What do I want the reader to get out of this story? In times of trouble, have faith, don’t give up.”

I pressed Eric on some of the changes he made to the traditional text. For example, in his version, King Achashversoh reverses the decree that the Jews will be killed. (In the megillah, he cannot reverse the decree, and instead permits the Jews to defend themselves.)


You cannot be absolutely tied to the text or you are going to tie yourself into knots. The details start taking up paragraph after paragraph. So I made a choice – I didn’t want to end with a blood bath, I wanted to make it a story of faith. I felt I could easily get rid of the king’s decree. I also glossed over hanging Haman’s family – I think that’s a little strong. And what would the artist draw? I always ask myself – how essential to the story is it? I’m writing for children and I assume I have a reader who may not know the original story. So, I approach it as a storyteller. This is how I learned these stories – from grandmother, in Yiddish. She may have started with the text, but she read it a long time ago. We were all over the map. 


He also talked about some of other “improvements” he made on the traditional story. Based, in part, on his experience with Playboy Bunnies. (Really.)

I loved watching Hugh Hefner’s show on TV – The Girls Next Store. The Bunnies look gorgeous until they open their mouths. So, I thought, how is Esther going to stand out? In my version, she is the one who doesn’t dress up so fancy. I decided to have her dress in plain clothes. The message is, be who you are. You don’t need the makeup and the plastic surgery and all that nonsense. The beauty comes from within. 

Achashverosh finds she has brains and not just beauty. That’s why I didn’t make him a fool, because if he is, then Esther marrying him becomes almost unbearable. So I see him as well meaning, but overwhelmed. 


You know what I’m doing? I’m writing modern midrash. Because midrash continues to the present day. We are constantly reinterpreting and reinventing these stories. They are not locked in stone. I want children to learn that the stories of the Torah are great stories – they stand with the best of them – Anderson and Grimm – and it all comes down to the story.

If you’re not already charmed, make sure to listen to Eric reading The Book of Esther aloud on his blog. You can almost hear him smiling while he reads it.


Eric Reads “The Story of Esther.” from Eric Kimmel on Vimeo.


Comments read comments(6)
post a comment

posted February 16, 2012 at 9:02 am

Maxine LOVES that book. Way more than she loves some of the less sophisticated tellings of the story we have. (Suddenly it occurs to me that we have a LOT of Purim books.) It’s a good lesson in not talking down to kids — the pictures and the art are both a little challenging in a good way, I think, and there’s a huge payoff in offering a non-babyish version of the tale.

I like Cakes and Miracles, too, for the same reasons. But Kimmel’s book is far and away Maxie’s fave.

report abuse

Bible Belt Balabusta

posted February 16, 2012 at 10:03 am

My daughter liked Tomie dePaola’s Queen Esther (with cut-out puppets). It’s straightforward, sticks pretty close to the story and it’s Tomie dePaola… Out of print now, I think.
And dark soul that she is, she liked Mordechai Gerstein’s Queen Esther the Morning Star. He handles the visuals for Haman’s hanging well: a pair of shoes nearly out of frame at the top of the page, his superfluous hat falling to the ground, while a dog scratches itself next to the post.

But I was grateful you called our attention to Kimmel’s book last year. It’s fun to have all three and compare.

I don’t know if I can include a link here, but the artist Cheri Pere did an 11-panel storyboard for the Story of Purim posted at It’s a hoot! I’m using it with the young families at shul this year. I’ll post the link on Homeshuling’s fb page.

report abuse


posted February 16, 2012 at 4:50 pm

I love Eric Kimmel’s books, but my favorite Purim story is Raisel’s Riddle by Erica Silverman.

report abuse

Pingback: Top 10 Purim links


posted March 5, 2012 at 11:23 pm

I just discovered “Esther’s Story” by Diane Wolkstein, even though its copyright is 1996. It tells the story from the point of view of Esther, rather from an omniscient narrator’s point of view.

My kids loved it and they said they understood the story of Purim much better than from the other stories we have read.

As an added bonus, since we are homeschoolers, we are using the book as a springboard to point of view writing. One of my daughters is writing the story from the view of Haman and the other as Ahasueros.

report abuse


    posted March 14, 2012 at 7:55 pm

    that’s a great idea!

    report abuse

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to and may be used by in accordance with the agreements.

Previous Posts

Teaching the Four Questions to young children
One of the greatest privileges of being a kindergarten teacher in a Jewish day school is having the opportunity to teach children to recite the four questions. Unlike almost anything else I teach them about Jewish ritual, this is "real work." ...

posted 7:36:03am Apr. 01, 2012 | read full post »

Guess what's Kosher for Passover (this will change your life.)
I'm not exaggerating. The bane of my Passover existence has been pareve baking. I cook a lot more meat during the holiday than I do the rest of the year, which means a lot more pareve desserts. Which has, up until now, usually meant margarine ...

posted 5:02:27pm Mar. 22, 2012 | read full post »

Why I love the New American Haggadah (and it's not just because I got to have a martini with Nathan Englander.)
I'm not a haggadah junkie. I know many Jews whose shelves are overflowing with numerous versions of the Haggadah - from the traditional Maxwell House to the not-so-traditional Santa Cruz - and whose seders are an amalgam of commentaries, poems, ...

posted 9:25:37pm Mar. 14, 2012 | read full post »

Best Hamentashen Ever, even better. And, a Purim opera.
This time of year, I'm always excited when I look at my google analytics and see that people have landed at my blog by searching for "hamentashen recipe". I love the idea of people all over the world making my great-grandmother's fabulous ...

posted 7:13:38pm Mar. 05, 2012 | read full post »

Edible Purim baskets. And, introducing...the cookie fairies!
My very favorite Jewish holiday tradition, bar non, is the mitzvah of mishloach manot - preparing and delivering gifts of homemade goodies to friends and neighbors on Purim day. This is a mitzvah which embodies so much of why Judaism is ...

posted 8:16:28am Feb. 26, 2012 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.