Genocide. Execution. Arranged marriage. With themes like these, I can understand why there are few children’s version of the story of Esther on the market. And yet, it features a girl rich in courage and true beauty, a man whose life is a perfect illustration of the proverb “Pride comes before a fall,” and a God who, though unnamed in the story, orchestrates his people’s salvation in a lovely, symmetrical way. By dodging the darker themes, we sometimes miss the pulsing light running right through the heart of the story.
Eric Kimmel’s telling handles both aspects of the story gracefully. He manages to provide a thorough version that is (in the most important parts) faithful to the Bible, without burdening the story with unnecessary detail. There is a sense of motion to the narrative, perhaps due to Jill Weber’s illustrations: the characters are so expressive and animated that the story whisks along at the clip maintained by the Biblical book.
The characters are among my favorite in the Bible: Esther, the reluctant queen; Mordecai, a man faithful and full of integrity; Artaxerxes, a volatile king often portrayed as foolish, and perhaps rightfully so; and Haman, the perfect villain with a fitting end. I am so drawn to this story that I read any version I can get my hands on, and I can safely say that Kimmel’s is my favorite.
The Story of Esther: A Purim Tale
Eric A. Kimmel, Jill Weber (2011)