Foreword Reviews

Esther’s Gragger A Toyshop Tale of Purim

- Author Interview MARTHA SEIF SIMPSON

978-1-937786-75-5, Wisdom Tales, wisdomtale­

How did you get the idea for your story?

After The Dreidel That Wouldn’t Spin: A

Toyshop Tale of Hanukkah was published, I wanted to write another Toyshop Tale. I immediatel­y thought of a gragger, a toy that is used as part of the Purim festivitie­s. These whirling noisemaker­s come in an endless variety of styles and designs, which would provide another great opportunit­y for the illustrato­r, Durga Yael Bernhard. And you can see the beautiful results!

To me, the biblical Story of Esther has always been about how a brave young woman stood up to a bully in order to save her people from destructio­n. But how could I translate this theme into a story for children? Sadly, bullies still exist and many kids encounter them. During Purim services, when the Megillah is read, we spin graggers to drown out the name of wicked Haman whenever it’s mentioned in a symbolic attempt to erase evil. That gave me the idea to have a girl named Esther use the noise of a gragger to chase off a large boy who threatened her.

The biblical Esther is one of the great heroes of Jewish history. Why did her story resonate with you?

Men tend to dominate most biblical stories, with woman generally in supporting roles. But Esther is truly the hero of this tale. She risked her own life to tell her husband, King Ahasuerus, about his top advisor’s plot to kill the Jews.

Readers of all religions will embrace the stand-up-to-bullies message, especially in a story with such a strong female protagonis­t. Was this your hope?

Esther’s courage provides a wonderful role model for children who witness bullying behavior. In today’s jargon, she acted as an upstander, not a bystander. And when he saw what was happening with the children, the shopkeeper joined them to stand against the bully, as did everyone else in the area. Together, they used a non-violent method to embarrass and chase off an oppressor.

I hope this story will resonate with readers of all beliefs, cultures, and lifestyles. To quote the shopkeeper, “We must never be afraid to take a stand against cruelty.”

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